Beta

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

UK Copyright Blackmailers Rebuked By Court

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the bad-naughty-evil-acs-law dept.

The Courts 64

Sockatume writes "The first eight ACS:Law cases have reached the courts, and have already fallen on their face. The law firm hit the headlines when it demanded money from tens of thousands of Britons for illegal file sharing, threatening legal action. It seems its bark was worse than its legal bite, as default judgments have been refused in six of the cases for such egregious errors as attempting to make a claim when one is not even the copyright holder. Two of the cases were found in default as the defendants had failed to respond, but not on the merits of ACS:Law's case."

cancel ×

64 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Find Lawyer (2)

findlawyerdirect (1951888) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512386)

The lawyers themselves may however have some answering to do before their professional bodies.

Re:Find Lawyer (4, Informative)

Spad (470073) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512420)

Well, they are being investigated by the SRA and the Law Society as well as the Consumer Action Group, so fingers crossed.

Re:Find Lawyer (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 3 years ago | (#34515734)

Yes, and they will be severely chastised for publicizing lawyers regular, everyday behaviour.

I much prefer... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34513420)

The lawyers themselves may however be facing firing squad.

Hurray (2)

dugeen (1224138) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512388)

I thought their argument was flawed but I didn't realise there were quite so many holes in it, it's a pity though that some of the people targeted will have settled out of court already.

Re:Hurray (2)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512410)

I thought their argument was flawed but I didn't realise there were quite so many holes in it, it's a pity though that some of the people targeted will have settled out of court already.

It's good to see that at least some default judgement requests are failing -- maybe we are seeing a tidal shift in purse-seine litigation?

Naw, too much to hope for.

ONLY rebuked? (0)

JockTroll (996521) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512394)

Not nearly enough. Confiscate all of their possession down to their underwear, throw them into the cold streets smeared in pig blood with a pack of hungry bloodhounds on their heels, sell their cursed offsping into sex slavery.

Re:ONLY rebuked? (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34512778)

a) this constitutes animal cruelty - do you really think it is ethical to allow a dog or similar animal to eat a lawyer?
b) selling their offspring into sex slavery might produce additional offspring - you can't take the chances...

Re:ONLY rebuked? (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 3 years ago | (#34513398)

do you really think it is ethical to allow a dog or similar animal to eat a lawyer?

My 7 year old border collie says the soft bits are tasty. Plus, while the taste of the chops may not be the best, at least they're very tender. Not a lot of backbone to remove, which makes filleting easier.

With the right marinade, and slathered in crème fraiche, lawyers aren't bad at all.

Re:ONLY rebuked? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#34513606)

b) selling their offspring into sex slavery might produce additional offspring - you can't take the chances...

Bill Gates' parents are both lawyers.

Re:ONLY rebuked? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34514238)

Steve Jobs would love to have Bill as a sex slave.

Re:ONLY rebuked? (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 3 years ago | (#34516242)

I hear pigs love lawyers - those things will eat anything!

Re:ONLY rebuked? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34521228)

That's why they are being called "land-sharks". Oh, you meant the pigs...

This isn't an end to the cases (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34512406)

This is merely a demonstration of a court insisting on at least some adherence to the existing ethical standards of the bar. This is telling lawyers to follow procedure, not a questioning of the merit of the process itself. It's really nothing more than that.

Don't feel confident in it.

Also isn't this a dupe?

Re:This isn't an end to the cases (4, Informative)

uglyduckling (103926) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512694)

Actually, if you read the article, it's not just a matter of procedure. The judge specifically mentions the 'unusual' aspects of the claim, for instance the injunctions requested were to require the defendants to secure their internet connections, not to stop breaking copyright law which would be the logical and reasonable approach. The judge also mentions points of law, for instance there's UK legislation where 'authorising' copyright violations is an offence, but the lawyers were equating this with 'allowing', and then equating having a poorly secured wireless router with 'allowing' in order to show culpability, something which the judge threw out.

Re:This isn't an end to the cases (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34512750)

Your first point would be addressed by modifying the claim with a few modifiers, not changing the substance. For example say it said "And wherein the defendant claims that it is unauthorized access to their connections, that they shall endeavor to secure their connections" with the whole business of stopping it being stated elsewhere in the pleading. Big deal. The other bit could probably be written around as well if somebody took the time to do it. Or maybe it's a deficiency in the law itself, though that would seem a strange oversight. Not like anybody couldn't think of it.

So no, it's all about procedure, not merits. The lawyers in this case seem to have done a poor job writing this up. It happens, but let's not pretend it changes anything about law as such.

Re:This isn't an end to the cases (2)

denis-The-menace (471988) | more than 3 years ago | (#34514056)

But there's money in those downloaders pockets. A few laws and procedures are not going to stop "The suing rush". Pan-handling in the courts has worked well in a few courts in the states so it should work well in the UK.

Re:This isn't an end to the cases (4, Informative)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512874)

The judge did insist that the claimant be the copyright holder and the defendant be someone actually involved in the alleged infringement rather than someone who just sat back and let the infringement take place. That could make things a bit difficult for ACS:Law.

Re:This isn't an end to the cases (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34512988)

Chasing technicalities there with that bit. From what I can tell, it's not that this group doesn't have the right, so much as how they presented it in the filings. And at most, the sitting back and letting infringement take place just seems like an impetus to apparently change this defective UK law which if it doesn't cover this kind of situation, would seem to be a rather glaring oversight.

Really, who wouldn't think of that?? Especially now a days. But then I guess it's why they needed to negotiate.

All 8 were denied (5, Insightful)

ommerson (1485487) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512428)

The judge in fact refused all 8 requests for default. Of the eight, 3 had in fact filed defences, and there was no evidence of service in 3 more. The remaining two were technically in default, but the judge found the case lacked any legal merit due to the plaintiff not actually being the rights-holder or exclusive licensee, and therefore incapable of bringing a copyright infringement action. It looks as if ACS:Law's business model of speculative invoicing is holed below the waterline and sinking rapidly. The question I have is whether launching actions with such fundamental errors in law and procedure amounts to mal-practice? It certainly wouldn't be the first allegation of this type for ACS:Law.

Re:All 8 were denied (3, Informative)

Spad (470073) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512446)

As I commented above, they're currently under investigation by virtually every legal and consumer rights body in the UK, so I imagine this incident will just be added to the already extensive list of reasons to disbar, fine and possibly imprison the people in charge at ACS:Law.

Criminal as well as unethical? (1)

ommerson (1485487) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512480)

I wonder whether ACS:Law's behaviour approaches the legal definition of Extortion?

There are really only two explanations: that they were incompetent or, alternative, entirely competent, and trying it on.

Re:Criminal as well as unethical? (3, Informative)

Spad (470073) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512510)

Their internal docs that were leaked after the DDoS on their website showed clearly that they were well aware of what they were doing.

Re:Criminal as well as unethical? (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512602)

Lawyers cannot extort. It is a fact. Ask any lawyer.

Re:Criminal as well as unethical? (5, Funny)

91degrees (207121) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512642)

I asked. He refused to answer unless I paid him several hundred dollars.

Jeezus Be Praised.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34512558)

..The Judge tore Andrew a new one there ;-) That idiot cannot gain a default against undefended cases ;-))

- dunno about the value of precedence in an English County Court Judgement either, however, the absolute refusal to entertain a sham company front as representing the actual Rightsholders was indeed promising. Shame about those still sitting in Wandsworth on somewhat loosely defined grounds, regardless, this has restored my faith in UK Justice somewhat, cheers!

Class action by the rest of the mugs who gave into his extortion to recover their dosh would be the icing on the cake - doubt thats happening anytime soon tho. Where art thou now, Mr Crossley..

Re:Jeezus Be Praised.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34512580)

Class action by the rest of the mugs who gave into his extortion to recover their dosh would be the icing on the cake - doubt thats happening anytime soon tho.

Class actions are a US law thing, so, no. Not happening any time soon

Re:Jeezus Be Praised.. (3, Informative)

AlecC (512609) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512650)

The precedent is binding on all courts of the same level, which in this case is the lowest level in the English courts system, but can be overridden by a higher court.

The concept of class action does not exist in English law.

Re:Jeezus Be Praised.. (2)

Khyber (864651) | more than 3 years ago | (#34516782)

"The concept of class action does not exist in English law."

Wrong, it's called Mass Tort Litigation.

Re:Jeezus Be Praised.. (2)

Fulcrum of Evil (560260) | more than 3 years ago | (#34517940)

They aren't the same thing. [articlesbase.com] They are similar, however.

Re:Jeezus Be Praised.. (1)

Khyber (864651) | more than 3 years ago | (#34522244)

The key word is 'concept.'

Regardless of how the plaintiffs get their reward, everything else is pretty much the exact same.

Thus, the 'concept' clearly exists. The actual wording may not match but the idea is the same; a class of people bring action against a defendant with regards to a common complaint.

Default (1)

Andy Smith (55346) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512574)

"Two of the cases were found in default as the defendants had failed to respond, but not on the merits of ACS:Law's case."

So a lesson for us all there. If some random law firm threatens to sue you for something you haven't done, apparently you MUST respond or you're guilty.

Re:Default (4, Informative)

Shimbo (100005) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512612)

If some random law firm threatens to sue you for something you haven't done, apparently you MUST respond or you're guilty.

Wrong, three separate ways:

1. No, you should put in a defence when actually served with court papers.
2. You may get a case ruled against you if you don't bother to put in a defence but that didn't happen here.
3. It's a civil case, so guilty does not apply.

Re:Default (5, Informative)

AlecC (512609) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512636)

Well, yes. If you could get away with things by simply not responding when sued, the guilty would use that as way of avoiding judgment. Of course, when it comes to court and the plaintiff requests judgment in default, he mist convince the judge that there was a real case to answer - which failed this time, which is why the judge correctly dismissed the claims against those technically in default. You are not guilty without evidence, but if the plaintiff presents reasonable evidence and you do not refute it, the judge has no choice but to accept the plaintiffs case.

Re:Default (2)

samjam (256347) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512654)

Just make sure you know who it is you need to respond to.

I understood that the obligation was to respond to the court and not to ACS (in this case).

Re:Default (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512754)

>>>apparently you MUST respond or you're guilty.

Dear MAFIAA:

Fuck off. Take your extortion letter ("Give us $5000 or else"), shape it into a dildo, and shove it into a lower orifice.

Sincerely,
Commodore 64 Fan

Re:Default (4, Informative)

ledow (319597) | more than 3 years ago | (#34513006)

Er... and what's shocking about that? It's called a *default* judgement (hence, the judgement that would be entered unless you changed the circumstances). Literally one line of a piece of paper or turning up at court when notified would immediately change the *default* judgement into "innocent until proven guilty" (if applicable). If someone does actually serve a legal paper against you then you are a true idiot to just ignore it - it's like ignoring a parking fine or a tax bill, it will NOT improve the situation. At the most basic level, it's also the rudest thing you can do - you're basically telling the *COURT* to fuck off, not the person filing and even if that person is an idiot, you've just insulted the court system that decides what happens to you. That's THE single most stupid thing you can ever do. "Contempt of court" is an offence in itself, remember, not that you'd get that far for this particular incident.

Plus, it takes a matter of minutes to write any letter that basically says "I don't understand what I'm accused of", "Fine, I'll see you in court", or "I didn't do it", or even "Contact my lawyer, here's his number". If someone files a legal case against you - RESPOND. You don't need to say "I did it" or "I didn't do it" (as the other people who did respond almost certainly didn't admit either way), you just need to tell the court "I heard. I'll be cooperating with the legal system." Whether the case itself is a heap of shit of not is another matter and really needs a properly worded reply to avoid further insult. That's why at *that* point, even a LAWYER receiving that threat would consult another independent lawyer. Simple things like failing to get the correct form in on time can result in a default judgement against you and, yes, you probably can appeal that in some fashion but it just shows the court that you're going to be troublesome and time-wasting before you even start.

Even without a lawyer's help, a politely worded letter would work wonders in your favour:

Dear Mr Whatever,

I understand from your previous correspondence that you intend to initiate court action against me for the alleged act of XXX. Without admitting or denying these allegations, I am informing you that I will participate fully in any properly-filed case that you bring against me in these matters, however my initial reaction is that they may be indiscriminately targeted at the innocent and guilty alike based on the media coverage surrounding your company and its recent actions in similar cases against innocent people. I am currently reviewing my legal options but I consider any action out-of-court to be ill-advised and without merit. If you wish to proceed with legal action, my legal representative is XXX.

Yours,

Mr Someone

I *guarantee* that ACS:Law got hundreds of those letters and none of those people ever ended up anywhere near a court, or needed to. You didn't even need to file a defence in court to "win" - just turn up and cooperate, a defence is for when the allegations are clear and you've had time to respond, hire representation, gather evidence and it's actually *going* to court. A friend of mine got one of those letters that demanded cash and a signed statement that they wouldn't infringe again on the basis of zero evidence. My wife was legally-trained. They wrote a letter (not a legal one, just a letter that basically said "Nope... if you think I did wrong, take me to court."). They *NEVER* heard from them again. It was all an elaborate bluff but there's always ONE idiot who ignores the letters, misses the court date, gets a default judgement against them and then people like ACS:Law can say "We won a case already, wasn't even contested, the court gave us our costs and the money we demanded from the other side, now we'll go pick on someone else with a case history on our side too!".

If you receive any legal correspondence whatsoever, write back or get your lawyer to. Hell write back and say "I received your letter, I'm consulting my lawyer, deal with him from now on". Chances are you'll never hear from that person ever again, and neither will the lawyer. But the tiniest slip in your letter, or just sheer ignorance of the case will mean it goes against you. Why would an innocent person NOT turn up to court (or at least contact the court to explain their absence), or responded to an actual court case against them when their presence / response has been requested by the court?

Re:Default (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34513220)

The problem with this is that it costs money to consult a lawyer. A legal system that expects people to hire a lawyer in the face of frivolous litigation is broken. It gives any attacker a trivial way to cause any victim they choose to incur costs.

Re:Default (2)

ledow (319597) | more than 3 years ago | (#34513710)

Costs nothing to write a letter. Costs nothing (99% of the time) to hire a lawyer on no win, no fee (which almost all the people here would have done) basis. Costs nothing for the first hour or so of a lawyer's time. Costs literally a few quid to get a lawyer that would take this on and write a couple of letters for you that would stop it going to court in the first place. And if it *does* go to court, you'll end up with almost all of those fees back if you were innocent (if you're guilty, that's a different matter entirely!).

But sending a letter and informing the court that you contest the allegation costs *NOTHING*. That's why so many people never heard from ACS:Law again, even if they had no legal training whatsoever.

Costs nothing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34513800)

Costs nothing? Try sending the court a letter without a stamp.

"Costs literally a few quid to get a lawyer that would take this on and write a couple of letters for you"

Hence the lawyers don't care if there are criminal (as in breaking the law) lawyers because they'll get paid.

Default judgement is bollocks.

If you've been served by non secured mail then you may not know. If you're in the wrong COUNTRY you may never know how.

But default judgements still go through.

And they wonder why we have contempt of courts.

Re:Default (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 3 years ago | (#34515126)

The UK does have a loser pays system. So it should cost nothing to defend successfully.

Re:Default (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 3 years ago | (#34513350)

Simple.

Legally DDoS someone in 25 different countries and have all the court dates the same?

Re:Default (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34514618)

google for "Freeman on the land"
educate yourself!

Re:Default (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34515700)

Just a small tip: Any letter you write in response to a threat of legal action (UK) should include the words "without prejudice" at the top. Just in case. OKTHXBYE.

Re:Default (1)

uninformedLuddite (1334899) | more than 3 years ago | (#34527030)

You find such exciting stuff on youtube don't you?

Not an error, a crime (2)

dbIII (701233) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512712)

for such egregious errors as attempting to make a claim when one is not even the copyright holder

That sounds like the crime of fraud to me.

Re:Not an error, a crime (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512756)

It does. But you actually have to prove fraud, and it's extremely difficult. Can you prove beyond reasonable doubt that they didn't know they weren't authorised, and that they claimed to be purely for their own enrichment rather than for the benefit of their client?

Disbarring (3, Interesting)

L473ncy (987793) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512924)

From what I understand, it's not actually doing wrong that will get you disbarred (yes if you kill someone you'll be disbarred) but rather the appearance of doing wrong that may put the profession into bad light (ie. unethical things that put the professions integrity into question). I have not evidence to substantiate this since it was a college (Law) prof who told the class this but he was a practicing lawyer for a number of years before going back to teaching.

morons copyrighting time, space & circumstance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34512958)

so, we now require that we be compensated (besides getting to see the hysterically humorous/pathetic dramatics of greed, fear & ego run amok) for every sound forced into our patentdead time & space by your artificial gadgets. this will 1/2 to come off the 'top', as the end users are not responsible for the infringements perpetrated by the gadget manufacturers, & the makers of artificial noise.

end users to receive damages (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34513112)

silence has been almost totally destroyed. the aggrieved users class has been barraged with unwanted excess noise (mostly deception) for decades now.

silence is planning a comeback, to proportionally correct levels. time marches on, but remains offended at how we are using our gifts against each other. nobody likes 'bad' history.

Very brave, timothy (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 3 years ago | (#34513032)

Accusing a law firm of blackmail. I'm pretty sure they call that "libel" both in the US and the UK.

Don't get me wrong, I agree with you! That's my opinion, however, not the title of a story on an IT news website.

Re:Very brave, timothy (3, Interesting)

Spad (470073) | more than 3 years ago | (#34513166)

Re:Very brave, timothy (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 3 years ago | (#34513650)

Thanks for that. I'm glad that Lord Lucas has agreed, but I don't think that it's legally binding. He was expressing an opinion too. The legalities of it weren't determined (He states himself that it is legal blackmail).

Re:Very brave, timothy (1)

VJ42 (860241) | more than 3 years ago | (#34518446)

Thanks for that. I'm glad that Lord Lucas has agreed, but I don't think that it's legally binding. He was expressing an opinion too. The legalities of it weren't determined (He states himself that it is legal blackmail).

Not to mention that Lord Lucas had parliamentary privilege [wikipedia.org] , you can libel and slander whoever you like on the floor of the Lords.

Re:Very brave, timothy (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 3 years ago | (#34513712)

Actually the title's my original one. And as noted below, I'm hardly the first to draw the comparison. In fact given the legal incompetence shown by the firm, one can either assume it was a bad-faith shakedown by a firm that knew it had no legal ground to stand on, or an honest case of spectacular incompetence by a bunch of idiots. I think I was being kind by assuming the former.

how long before they force you in to arbitration? (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 3 years ago | (#34513940)

how long before they force you in to arbitration?

can they do that anyways by say once you down load something (don't need any real poof) then you must go to arbitration?

Re:how long before they force you in to arbitratio (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 3 years ago | (#34513980)

Arbitration can only happen when there's a contract between two parties to mandate it. And the kind of mandatory, binding arbitration you refer to is practically a nonentity in the UK.

Re:how long before they force you in to arbitratio (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 3 years ago | (#34513994)

(Well, not only in a contract situation, but in the scenario you're imagining.)

Re:how long before they force you in to arbitratio (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 3 years ago | (#34515040)

Tell me about it. I've seen people being "awarded" payouts by Employment Tribunals, then the employers saying "Well, that's nice, now we'll see you in Grown Up Court. Our lawyers are on salary - how about yours?"

Re:how long before they force you in to arbitratio (1)

Anonymous Cowpat (788193) | more than 3 years ago | (#34519622)

"Legal aid. Cookie?"

Re:how long before they force you in to arbitratio (1)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 3 years ago | (#34515180)

No, because in England, you can't agree to exclude the jurisdiction of the court.

Hmmm (1)

sharkey (16670) | more than 3 years ago | (#34516696)

...attempting to make a claim when one is not even the copyright holder.

Is that piracy? Or something else?

Re:Hmmm (1)

davecb (6526) | more than 3 years ago | (#34520010)

Courts are reluctant to punish people who bring suits and lose, lest they make people fear to go to court.

Obtaining money by the threat of legal action based on a false and fraudulent pretense, however, may be something a court, or more likely the appropriate law society, would act on.

IMHO, the critical point is the degree to which the claim can be demonstrated to be fraudulent. An oldish definition is, in part, "An intentional perversion of truth for the purpose of inducing another in reliance upon it to part with some valuable thing belonging to him or to surrender a legal right." [Black's Law Dictionary (6th edition) page 660]

As a philosopher, it strikes me the hurdle to a successful prosecution was initially fairly high. Until the court found they didn't have the copyrights, they could claim they were merely in error, not intentionally making false claims.

That is no longer an option in any new threats: the bar is now much lower.

--dave

They have been rebuked? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34517804)

Harsh but fair. If they reoffend, I'm sure the judge will tell them to sit on the naughty step for fifteen whole minutes.

Check for New Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?
or Connect with...

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>