Sunday, November 29, 2009

Are You Stealing Intellectual Property?

ACS:Law, a law firm that specialises in protecting the intellectual rights of copyright holders has said it intends to send out 15,000 letters to people suspected of illegally downloading and sharing films and games. According to the BBC these letters include an opportunity to settle out of court for a few hundred pounds rather than be taken to court and risk paying thousands of pounds. As is rightly considered in the report, this sounds a lot less like enforcing the rights of intellectual rights holders and very much like a money-making exercise.

As I have said before, how will or do they know people are illegally sharing files? There is a suggestion in the report that information is gathered using special software that identifies illegal file sharing. I doubt anything like this exists. I suggest the software (if it exists) does one or more of several things. It identifies file sharing software (not in itself illegal). It identifies large file uploads or downloads. Neither is this illegal. It identifies encrypted uploads or downloads. Again, encryption is not, in itself illegal.

The software has not yet been tested in court. I doubt it will ever be. People who have been accused have either paid up and/or consulted a solicitor. None, it appears who have refused to pay have been taken to court, suggesting there is no real evidence.

Should I receive such a communication from ACS:Law or anybody else (and I predict there will be many) who jumps on the bandwagon my responses will be several.

Since I have a laptop and desktop PC, my son plays X-box games online and has a desktop in his room and my daughter has a laptop, my bandwidth usage will be quite high, I assume. So if the suggestion is my high bandwidth usage arouses suspicion of illegal downloads, they will get short shrift from me. If they claim they have acquired my address from my ISP I will want to know on what grounds they obtained a court order to get this information and investigate the possibility of a contravention of the Data Protection act. Because by requesting a court order, they must surely have investigated my internet usage to provide evidence to justify such a request.

I will make it quite clear to them that I cannot pay several hundred pounds to avoid court action, so take me to court where, if they win they will have even less chance of getting the several thousand pounds they are chasing.

And finally, if they do wish to proceed with a legal challenge and I win, in the face of all their 'evidence', the grounds on which I win will open the door for others to appeal their convictions (if they ever get any) and will provide a legal challenge for all other such prosecutions.

They ought also to remember this is Britain, not the US and cases are taken on merit, not money.


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