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ACS Law Referred to Disciplinary Tribunal Over UK ISP File Sharing Threat Letters

Posted: 24th Aug, 2010 By: MarkJ
p2p copyright uk ISP file sharing lawThe UK Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA) has officially referred the controversial solicitors firm ACS:Law (Andrew Crossley) to a disciplinary tribunal after it sent "bullying" letters to those accused of having abused their broadband ISP connection for "illegal" copyright file sharing (p2p) activity.

ACS:Law is known to have sent thousands of letters to people in the UK, many of which demanded settlement fee/payments of several hundred pounds (e.g. £500). Those who didn't pay were warned that they would face the courts (civil action), although this rarely ever happened due to the difficulty and high cost of trying such a case.

Only a week ago the SRA told ISPreview.co.uk (here) that they were "still investigating ACS Law therefore no conclusion has been made", before promising to let us know when that changed. It should be noted that the original complaint was brought by consumer magazine Which? .

Deborah Prince, Which?’s head of legal, said:

"We welcome this decision because we’ve received so many complaints from consumers who believe they been treated appallingly by this law firm. We also believe that it’s time for the profession to take action against law firms, and those responsible for them, which behave in a way we believe most right-thinking people would view as both aggressive and bullying."

Earlier this year the Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA) also referred Davenport Lyons, an infamous law firm involved with protecting specialist intellectual property rights, to a disciplinary tribunal (here) for doing almost exactly the same as ACS:Law.

However the legal system is complex and as a result it can take a significant amount of time to both investigate and then proceed with a formal Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT). Davenport Lyons is still awaiting its SDT, which might not officially take place until later in 2011. The same is likely to happen with ACS:Law.

ACS:Law tracked alleged abuse by monitoring the Internet Protocol ( IP ) addresses of online users, which is assigned to your computer each time you connect to the internet and made public on P2P networks. This is not an effective way of determining a computer user’s true identity and on several occasions innocent people appear to have been incorrectly targeted.

An IP can easily be faked, hijacked, redirected and generally abused or used in ways that the systems employed by such trackers cannot detect. Furthermore the owner of a particular connection/IP, such as in case of a hotel, business or shared public Wi-Fi network (secure or not), may not be the individual responsible for the actual act itself.
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