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UK ISP PlusNet and BT Illegal File Sharing Judge Delays Request for Customer Data

Posted: 05th Oct, 2010 By: MarkJ
p2p copyright uk ISP file sharing case delayedgallant macmillan ukThe London High Court and its presiding judge, Chief Master Winegarten (CMW), has delayed a request by lawyers Gallant Macmillan, acting on behalf of the Ministry of Sound (MoS), to have more details of suspected "illegal" p2p copyright file sharers handed over by broadband ISP BT Retail and its sibling PlusNet UK (original news). The case ('Ministry of Sound Recordings Ltd v Plusnet Plc') will now be heard next year instead (12th January 2011).

Last week's already notorious email leak of confidential ISP subscriber data from the controversial solicitors firm ACS:Law (here, here and here) is understood to have assisted the internet providers in securing a new delay. BT has since said that it will now use the request for subscriber data as a test case and attempt to fight Gallant Macmillan's Norwich Pharmacal Order (NPO).

However ISPs must share some of the blame after BT admitted last week that it had ignored an earlier court request to send customers details to ACS:Law in a secure and "encrypted" form. Instead they were sent unencrypted.

The ACS:Law debacle also revealed many serious failings in the whole process, from flawed methods of identification to the potential abuse of personal information for financial gain (e.g. "bullying" settlement letters that request hundreds of pounds in compensation or threaten legal action, although no legitimate cases ever seem to reach the courts).

General BT-Retail Statement

The incident involving the ACS:Law data leak has further damaged people's confidence in the current process. We are pleased that the court has agreed to an adjournment so that our concerns can be examined by the court, this will then act as a precedent/test case for the future.

We want to ensure broadband subscribers are adequately protected so that rights holders can pursue their claims for copyright infringement without causing unnecessary worry to innocent people. We have not simply consented to these orders in the past, we have asked for stricter terms as public concern has risen. The data leak with ACS Law prompted us to take further action today.

We are also seeking a moratorium on outstanding applications and orders.

We've said it before and we'll keep saying this until common sense prevails. Related law firms typically track alleged piracy by monitoring the Internet Protocol ( IP ) addresses of internet 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 innocent people often get trapped by mistake.

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, such as in the case of a hotel, business or shared Wi-Fi network (secure or not), is frequently not the individual responsible for the actual act itself.

UK ISP TalkTalk's Executive Director Strategy and Regulation, Andrew Heaney, told ISPreview.co.uk:

"You mention spoofing, hijacking, shared wifi. However, perhaps the most prevalent source of unrelaibility is simply that there are many authorised users in each household (probably 4 on average). Thus in three out of four cases the subscriber (who is fingered) is not the infringer."

Two weeks ago Chief Master Winegarten (CMW) decided to refuse the Ministry of Sound’s (MoS) initial request for more personal details of UK broadband ISP customers, stressing that the public's concerns must be addressed before they could proceed. It will be interesting to see how BT fights next year's case.

Both ACS:Law (Andrew Crossley) and Davenport Lyons have over the past year been sent to Disciplinary Tribunals by the UK Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA) for sending "bullying" letters like those described further above. Yesterday new London based law firm, Cramer Pelmont Solicitors, threatened to pick up where ACS:Law left off (here).
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