UK: Harassing innocent users for copyright infringement

By EDRi · September 8, 2010

This article is also available in:
Deutsch: [UK: Schuldlose User der Verletzung von Urheberrechten bezichtigt |]

ACS:Law having sent tens of thousands of cash demands to make supposed
copyright infringement lawsuits go away, has been referred to the Solicitors
Disciplinary Group for “bullying and excessive conduct”.

The referral was the result of a coordinated work of wrongly accused people
and of consumers groups such as Which? and However,
Andrew Crossley, the principal of ACS:Law, goes regularly to court against
thousands of individuals he states are infringing his clients’ copyrights,
although he presents no solid proof for his allegations. The law says that
in order to have infringed copyright, Internet subscribers must have either
shared files themselves or explicitly authorized someone else to do it.
ACS:Law cannot know who used a computer at a given time and wrongfully
suggest that the bill payer is the infringer or that he (she) has the
responsibility to say who did the alleged file-sharing. The company’s
actions seriously affect a lot of wrongly accused people.

ACS:Law has been one of the most controversial law companies in the last
years. The company has kept busy the Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA),
a body regulating more than 110 000 solicitors in the UK, the regulatory
body of the Law Society of England and Wales, which is meant to keep an eye
on disreputable lawyers.

According to TorrentFreak, in September 2009, the complaints made to the SRA
about the conduct of ACS:Law constituted more than 16% of all complaints for
the whole month. Since 8 July 2010, the SRA has received an unprecedented
number of 418 official complaints against ACS:Law from members of the
public, a record in the IP sector.

In 2009, consumer group Which? filed a complaint against ACS:Law in which it
accused the law firm of bullying recipients by its threatening letters.
Finally, SRA has now referred Andrew Crossley to the Solicitors Disciplinary
Tribunal which adjudicates upon breaches of professional conduct and
is meant to protect the public by maintaining the reputation of the legal
profession. Its powers include the ability to fine, reprimand or even strike
off a lawyer, but the process will be long.

“We also echo the comments of Which? that the process appears very drawn out
and consumer unfriendly. We would also welcome clarification from the SRA as
to whether a temporary hold has been enforced on the continued practice of
ACS:Law in relation to filesharing cases or if they will be free to continue
their campaign unabated until the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal has
ruled,” stated’s spokesman for TorrentFreak.

A team of lawyers is offering to coordinate a group action in order to
gather compensation for Crossley’s harassed victims. “It can be incredibly
upsetting for people to receive such letters and they may well have a claim
for harassment against ACS Law so I am urging them to come forward,” says
Michael Forrester of Ralli’s Intellectual Property and Harassment Law team.

“Our aim is for the actions to cost claimants nothing,” said Robert Illidge
from Ralli’s. “It depends on who is involved, how many claims and how
the cases are presented. There are a number of ways of funding group action
litigation such as the ‘no win, no fee’ basis.”

A success of the action may bring damage compensations for the participants
for their “financial loss and anxiety the letters and other correspondence
have caused. The law also allows individuals to obtain injunctions in
certain specific circumstances, which, if obtained would prevent the
harassment from continuing,” added Illidge.

Wrongfully Accused Of File-Sharing? File For Harassment (31.08.2010)

File-Sharing Lawyers To Face Disciplinary Tribunal (23.08.2010)

File sharing: are you breaking the law?

Being Threatened? – Portal

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