back to article ACS:Law turns back on file-sharer court case

A UK lawyer who was controversially targeting online file-sharers has quit working on the cases currently underway in a patent court in London. Solicitor Andrew Crossley of ACS:Law had been representing the law firm’s client MediaCAT in cases brought against 26 file-sharers. Crossley said in a statement read out in court …

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So... lets think about this

>>"I have ceased my work... I have been subject to criminal attack. My e-mails have been hacked. I have had death threats and bomb threats," he said.<<

You went out, and chose to target people known for things that.. lets say are not on the fluffy side of digital law. Kinda like a kid kicking a hornets nest - kid gets stung till he's swollen up like a big blueberry.

Thats the funny thing about lawyers. They screw everyone over, but can't understand why they get screwed back by those that can. I don't approve of anyone being hacked, but I don't think for one minute he did not deserve a little retribution..

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Anonymous Coward

"there is a desire to avoid any judicial scrutiny,"

Yeah because then the copyrightPirates, sorry holders, would need to come up with some properly scrutinized evidence but they can't let facts get in the way of Justice!

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Anonymous Coward

"a desire to avoid any judicial scrutiny"

Says it all really...

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Flame

Not that scrutiny

It is a desire to avoid the scrutiny of the Solicitor Regulatory Authority scrutity.

ACS Law wound down, another company emerges in the meantime. This way the SRA may continue its wild goose chase for years to come without actually catching anyone.

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Couldn't have happened...

...to nicer bloke!

Ok. Who's next?...

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Anonymous Coward

whos next...

where to start?

Kent ertugmongral and phorm any Ass of America... etc etc...

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The scores just in....

Anonymous :1

ACS-LAW : Nil

eeeeeeextraordinary

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Anonymous Coward

No you weren't

"I have ceased my work... I have been subject to criminal attack. My e-mails have been hacked. I have had death threats and bomb threats," said Crossley.

No. You suffered a denial of service attack, and then exposed the emails yourself when you restored your website. Don't lie about what happened. If you were genuinely hacked, the ICO wouldn't be investigating you over it.

Either way, been threatened isn't nice, is it..?

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Pirate

Well...

Maybe he fired off a letter to the local Pakistani Mobster's family home.

Some people do take the law into their own hands.

Heat, kitchen etc,

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Hmmm

Reminds me of those alarm companies where you got paid to scare old ladies into a "Free consultation with a security expert who might have once been with the police".

They'd be shut down only to appear under a different name with many of the same top level staff.

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Sir

I was only just thinking that ACS Law are probably due a re-branding.

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Title is rewired

Good idea. You get the fire going, I'll dig the irons out.

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yeeeee-haaaa!

we done rode those cowboys outta town!

*fires six-shooter in the air wildly*

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Vic
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"My e-mails have been hacked"

Is this statement actually true?

The emails of which I'm aware weren't "hacked"; they were published on ACS:Law's website.

There are sanctions available against solicitors who deliberately (and provably) lie to the court. The SRA is likely to have some fun with this one...

Still good for the judge, slagging them off for trying to avoid judicial scrutiny :-)

Vic.

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Read a little closer El Reg

You missed the most significant part of that story with regard to here on out...

From the sidebar comment :

"But among the debates about the competance of ACS: Law and its real motives, is some evidence which could provide an interesting test of such cases in the future.

Both barristers for the defendants have questioned whether IP addresses - the numerical code which identifies individual computers - can be used as evidence and Judge Birss has raised doubts about whether accusing someone of "allowing" their network to be used for illegal file-sharing is a watertight argument."

Thats a fundamental legal issue there - the owner of a network being responsible for the action committed to the outside world from it. If this was to pass as it looks like it might, then companies/large networks would be able to just shrug off claims that whatever damage might have been caused by their users (even illegal users - eg unauthorised wireless users) is not their fault and that they have no obligation to identify perp users.

At the moment, if you can't serve up who did it, then the board members are personally liable.

I suspect these legal clowns have no idea what they are about to do here... good news for some though :thumbs:

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@AC

>>"Both barristers for the defendants have questioned whether IP addresses - the numerical code which identifies individual computers - can be used as evidence"

Presumably even if not reliable as evidence beyond reasonable doubt, IP addresses are probably generally counted as reliable enough to justify intrusive collecting of more reliable evidence, or at least would be treated that way in the case of *serious* online crime.

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Re:

The IP addr argument is just the barristers throwing everything they can think of at the case. It won't hold up as stated. It is fair to say that the IP "owner" (for example you or I in respect of the IP addrs given to your home routers) is not necessarily the copyright infringer. Could be someone else like a family member. Doesn't make the IP addr inadmissable as evidence.

The likely outcome of it will be very similar to vehicle reg marks - just because you're the reg'd keeper doesn't necessarily make you liable (in criminal proceedings at any rate), but if you can't provide a reasonable explanation to the court of either who the driver was, or why you couldn't have been the driver ("I was in Australia at the time m'Lord - here's my passport") you can expect the court to hit you with a bag of hammers.

Also note that in civil proceedings the burden of proof is MUCH lower (51/49 as opposed to 99.9% in criminal) If the judge thinks you were more than likely the person responsible you are munged.

"...the owner of a network being responsible for the action committed to the outside world from it"

Ummm, I can't quite get my head around the semantics of that one. It appears you are comparing computer misuse with copyright infringement. There are some similarities. Directors are responsible for copyright infringement AS WELL AS the corporate body that actually committed it if it was committed with their "consent or connivance" (love that phrase). However there are differences insofar as re: copyright infringement both civil remedies and criminal sanctions are available.

"...they have no obligation to identify perp users"

I wouldn't try that argument in court - you can be summonsed to court as a witness, and the court can compel you to answer questions that are asked of you. Failure to do so = contempt = time in clink. As a board member are you going to be in contempt of court to protect your wayward employee, or just name the idiot that caused you this grief?

I don't see the ACS argument working (they allowed their network to be used to infringe copyright) - the wording of the legislation just doesn't fit. You'd have to interpret words in ways other than their everyday meaning, which the courts are loathe to do without good reason. However, as I said above, if the ISP cusomers who are linked to the IP addrs don't have a good explanation as to how it wasn't them on the PC, given it's a civil case it's not asking too much of the court to find as fact that they were in fact the responsible party. Just depends on the DJ - some are soft as they come, others not so...

It may be possible to argue that they committed the infringement by negligence (not taking reasonable steps to secure their PC/network) - it's very common for the "guilty mind" to comprise either intent or negligence. They could also compare the situation to landlords whose premises are used to deal drugs / illegally imported fags etc.

However, it very much appears that nobody really wants this to go to court if they can help it. The problem is, if it becomes widespread "knowledge", everyone on the interwebs says "oh just ignore that official looking document", it may well go well for a while, but in the end the rights holders may feel obliged to take action to protect their rights. How much would it suck to have been told by all and sundry "ignore it" then you are the one where the DJ nails you for £5k because 1. you infringed copyright; and 2. you were unreasonable in ignoring the pre action corres?

Don't expect the gravy train to continue indefinitely - the rights holders hold a lot of sway, and the fact is sharing copyrighted material without a license *IS* an infringement.

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El

Bad analogy

As the owner of a registered vehicle, you can be reasonably expected to know who else was driving it. As the owner of an open wireless router, you have no way of knowing who else might be using it. I'm not sure it's ever been tested in court, but I believe the "I had an open wireless connection and I have no idea who downloaded that porn" is a valid affirmative defense.

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Re: analogy

"I believe the "I had an open wireless connection and I have no idea who downloaded that porn" is a valid affirmative defense."

Really? I sure don't advise relying on it in the UK. As I stated above, in civil proceedings the standard of proof is "on the balance on probabilities". Not a hard ask for the DJ to decide "well, I think it's more likely than not that it was the guy that lives at the addr and has P2P client on his PC rather than some ethereal person he has only brought up as a theory".

Read up on burden of proof - as a general rule, if you raise a point, it's your job to prove it. Kind of a hard job to prove it was more than likely someone else. It *could* have been someone else - not saying it's not possible - but how *likely* is it to have been someone else? That's where you fall down. You better keep access logs with MAC addrs otherwise you're making a rod for your own back.

Also note that the courts don't really care what you did, as much as what the reasonable man ought to have done. They particularly dislike intentional negligence ("I wasn't trying to punch him m'Lud, I just closed my eyes, swung my fist around a bit and happened to hit him"). Solicitors and barristers know this. Those on the prosecution / plaintiff side they will use that in most cases where someone claims something like "oh I let anyone use my WiFi / I leave my car keys lying around with the car reg printed on them - could have been anyone in the world. No, I can't point to anyone in particular..."

Ppl on the internet forums post such crap ideas because they don't know any better. They think the court will require incontravertible proof. They don't. Try paying for legal advice on the matter and see if it matches the free advice on the internet ;o)

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@El

>>"I'm not sure it's ever been tested in court, but I believe the "I had an open wireless connection and I have no idea who downloaded that porn" is a valid affirmative defense."

Even in a soft warning-based system, surely at some point in the warning process it would be pointed out that to continue having an unsecured network which [the user claimed] had been used by other people for infringing activity might be viewed as actually condoning such activity?

As for civil court cases, would repeated successful use of an 'insecure network' defence not be likely to fuel calls for police/rights holders to be able to get unannounced access to people's PCs/routers, even if only to gather very basic evidence such as MAC addresses and router logs?

Also, I'd imagine that using the open network defence might be risky for anyone planning on carrying on filesharing, or even keeping incriminating data on their systems.

If someone was later found to have lied in court, they could be in pretty serious trouble.

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Anonymous Coward

But that other bunch is picking up the slack?

Tag-teaming for extra hassle, eh?

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Happy

pwned!

See title.

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No day in court!

Pity it would have been nice to see them get thrown out on their arse.

If they had of got thrown out on their arses could others that just paid up to avoid the hassle have asked for their money back?

Andrew Crossley... remember that name. For sure he will pop up again. Maybe in a Private Car Park Scam or some other extortion racket.

Had you life invaded. Good!

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question

"I have ceased my work... I have been subject to criminal attack. My e-mails have been hacked. I have had death threats and bomb threats,"

does he have to prove that those things did happen? Shouldn't there be a police report on those incidents? Will it matter if they are true or not?

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Grenade

Freetard comments aside...

These "people" are quite obviously criminals i.e. ACS and their new setup. It seems pretty obvious Crossley and his cohorts should be locked up for extortion, or does the law allow for legitimised rackets like this?

Scum like him deserve all they get. Nice to see him get the same treatment back. I see no difference between "pay up or be dragged through the courts" and "pay up or have your legs broken". Porn films are obviously chosen for the lesser likelihood that someone would publicly challenge it, assuming it wasn't just made up troll the guilt-ridden.

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Umm.

>I see no difference between "pay up or be dragged through the courts" and

>"pay up or have your legs broken".

Actually you may want to consider that the first is legal due process and the other is threats /menaces and is illegal.

Quite a bit of a difference I would suggest.

Hopefully this practice of legal extortion will cease - I don't condone piracy, but the media intermediaries need to find a different source of income than trying to keep their stranglehold on artists.

And for everyone else I would encourage people to look out for more independent artists and support them, for instance:

Jonathon Coulton, Paul and Storm, Billy Bragg etc.

ttfn

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Coat

Jonathon Coulton?

Is he still alive?

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There is though...

Vexatious litigation and Barratry

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Joke

You've been listening to that cake haven't you?

;-)

ttfn

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Barrister Paul..

>>Actually you may want to consider that the first is legal due process and the other is threats /menaces and is illegal.

Between the two, I find it vaguely unsettling that you feel the lawyer is more right in this situation. Just because one is illegal and the other legal does not make it any less extortion or combination of threat/menace.

In fact, I would go so far as to say the loan shark threatening you with broken legs at the very least is honest about your debt (gratuitous vig not withstanding).

The lawyer threatening you has no clue of whether you personally are guilty or not - nor does he care - and is offering you the chance to pay up to avoid the hassle of proving you're not party to the offense. The fact that he gets to hide behind a legal loophole permitting him to threaten you on barely a sniff of evidence - and given the history of such cases, is likely to WIN even with NO evidence - makes him even worse than the bully boy sent to break your legs.

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Re: Umm.

"Actually you may want to consider that the first is legal due process and the other is threats /menaces and is illegal. Quite a bit of a difference I would suggest."

How is someone writing to someone and saying "You did naughty things, you did! Pay us £500 or else!" when they did not in many cases doing anything at all - let alone anything wrong - in any way a legal activity?

Britain is stuffed to the hilt with this kind of fraudulent shit, along with stupid lotteries and prize draws which, if there were any serious investigation, would fall on the wrong side of the law ("What do you mean Mrs P of Sudbury doesn't exist?!"), continuously perpetrated cowboyship and charlatanry under zombie-like businesses run by fraudsters who will retire rich despite never having delivered a complete product or service in their entire "working" lives.

The Britards in charge would do well to actually make the law target such serial criminals rather than have the perverse attitude that "Oh, it ain't him after all! He's got the same name, looks the same, but the name of the business he's running is *completely different*: JP Plumbing is different from PJ Bathrooms! Let's give him the benefit of the doubt." repeated endlessly. One wonders what kind of political donations originate from the more successful practitioners of such fraud that nothing ever seems to be done about it.

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Joke

Title? We don' need no steenkin' title...

>>I see no difference between "pay up or be dragged through the courts" and

>>"pay up or have your legs broken".

> Actually you may want to consider that the first is blackmail using

> a spurious threat of court proceedings and the other is

> threats/menaces...

There. Fixed it for you...

--

JG

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Pint

Bottom-Feeder Buggers Off

Ah, is this when I start believing in some sort of deity?

Nah, but it's still good news - the shitehound hounded out by the pack.

He gives lawyers a really bad rep. 'Screw you, where's my fee?'

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As Nelson Muntz would say...

"Ha! Ha!"

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I can't say that I'm surprised.

Punishing the end users of a product is not a good long-term strategy.

Punishing people who have no notion of what the h*** you're talking about is just suicidally bad publicity - all it takes is one computer-less grandma being sent one of these letters and the whole notion of proper procedure and justice is thrown out of the window.

I also wonder how long it would have been before a road warrior hacked ACS:Law's wi-fi and used it to download some illegal stuff - though I bet they wouldn't send themselves one of those letters.

It's also a bit of a give-away that they were offering to go away for £500 - far too little if they thought the people accused were actually guilty. It smacks far more of a legal extortion racket - as the judge said, the last thing they wanted was a proper judicial overview of what they were up to.

ttfn

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Since they also targetted people they knew were innocent....

...... I find it hard to have any sympathy for ACS Law.

It seems he's a victim of his own incompetance. Unlucky, Mr.Chancer.

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More of the same

Invasion of privacy and threats.

Is the irony lost on him?

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Lost on him

But not on everyone else and that's what counts :o)

The great fresh smell of Karma comin' atchya

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Grenade

Idiots like this

give the legal profession a bad name.

Shame the Law Society didn't issue an "Oi, you, Stoppit!" directive instead of generally acting like a superior load of tw*ts - as is their custom.

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Due to threats

What BS. Love the ways he is trying to make people and future prosecutors feel sorry for him. The threats idea is BS, he stopped because his position has become untenable, with case after case failing and upcoming prosecutions of him coming.

I won't go into how someone who has legal threats to thousands is now not happy about getting threats himself.

And the idea that his company has nothing to do with this new company, except for it being setup by old employes. It is just slimy all the way.

And my comments are not due to being a piracy advocate, if you have proper evidence against a person for piracy then fine drag them to court. Still would like to see the police in charge of investigating these things rather than private companies making stuff up.

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Happy

Do you remember what he said about the "website" issue?

"It was only down for a few hours. I have far more concern over the fact of my train turning up 10 minutes late or having to queue for a coffee than them wasting my time with this sort of rubbish," he said.

He was so out of his depth and didn't have scooby :) Probably read a copy of some pc mag and thought he was some sort of IT expert, how many times do we come across people like that walking into the IT department :)

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GCB Limited

Has anyone looked into this company? They are registered at Companies House as a company that undertakes "transport via railways". A search on the Law Society website reveals no matches. Doesn't sound like a legitimate law firm.

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Yeah but no but...

Companies House isn't exactly known for its speed and efficiency in registering new companies.

The thing that makes it sound fishy to me is the fact that there are people working there who have been within half a mile of Andrew Crossley. Maybe the legal system should be running with taint mode switched on?

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You can read all about at techdirt

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110124/03182912787/mysterious-non-company-helping-acslaw-collect-fines-now-says-forget-whole-thing.shtml

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Re: yeah but no but

I've never had any problems with Companies House. Ask a Company Formation Agent to form the company, and you have it on the Companies House website a few hours later.

Getting a bank account and a VAT number for it so you can actually start trading is an entirely separate issue.

However, this is a company that has been registered, precisely five years ago today on 25th January 2006. They filed "total exemption small" accounts for the year ended 31st January 2008, and "dormant" account for all other years before and after. "Dormant" means they had no trading activity at all. "Total exemption small" means that at least two out of the following three statements were true - they had sales of less than £5.6m, they had assets of less than £2.8m and they had less than 50 employees. Figures are higher now, but that was the limits at that time.

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Grounds to be counter-sued?

Given that the judge has expressed reservations, what's the chances of him being counter-sued for libel? E.g. making false accusations?

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Stop

Trouble is...

...suing him would probably be done through a solicitor.

Where are you going to find one you can trust to sue one of his ilk?

Yes, I know the majority have no morals and would sell their grannies for a tanner (2.5p to the younger readers), but putting the words "trust" and "solicitor" in the same sentence ain't easy.

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Re: Grounds to be counter-sued

Accusations made to the person concerned are not libel. It is only libel if the accusation is made to a third party.

They did tell the accused's ISP that they detected copyright infringement at a particular IP address. They could get round the libel charge by arguing, as the accused has, that the IP address is not evidence that he did it.

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