back to article Which? warns on pirate letters

Consumer organisation Which? said it has received over 150 enquiries from people who believe they have been wrongly accused of pirating copyrighted content. ACS:Law sends out letters offering to settle the file-sharing accusation in exchange for £500. The company gets its information from internet service providers. The …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. countryboy


    slap the fuckwits with a defamation claim!

  2. Dazed and Confused Silver badge

    Threatening behaviour

    The laws on threatening behaviour need to be amended to include sending out legal threats when there is no reliable evidence. If the law firms behind these bullying tatics knew that an inappropriate threat could see ALL the partners spending a considerable amount of time sleeping at one of those "hotels" with high walls, at Her Majesties Pleasure, then we might see an end to this practice.

    Perhaps they should also include the parties on who's behalf the letters claim to be sent and so the pigopolists were likewise at risk if^H^Hwhen they get it wrong.

    I got threaten by these scum a few years ago over an incorrectly sent out mobile phone bill. They weren't interested in the legal situation, they just wanted me to send them money. Letters from Ofcom saying the mobe firm admitted they'd made mistake didn't seem to interest them.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Maybe I too should set up a law company, these blackmail campaigns sound like a licence to print money. Pick a few thousand people at random, come up with some phony "crimes" to pin on them that they almost certainly won't be able to disprove (at least not for less effort/money than I am demanding of them), send out letters at pennies a piece, rake in the cash.

    It's a shame I have morals though.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Demanding money with Menaces perhaps?

      Given that some people receiving these letters have note committed the acts detailed therein, and that they are being threatened with a negative outcome if they don't pony up the cash, this might constitute demanding money with menaces. I would consider taking the letter to the police.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No Proof required

    ACS:Law base their "evidence" on IP addresses harvested from the net using questionable methodology, and then send letter accusing people based on this.

    The letters infer that even if you did not do it you are liable because it happened on your internet connection.

    Despite this shakey evidence because this is a civil matter the burden of proving innocence rests on the accused.

    Usually the "infringements of copyright" happen more than a year ago, which makes refuting ACS:Law claim even harder. Do you know where you were a year ago? Can you prove it? Do you have logs going back a year? Even some FTSE100 companies do not have logs going back this far!

    The sum of damages is pitched around GBP 500 which is less than engaging a solicitor to defend, so for many people, even innocent paying up is financially the easiest route.

    Its great scam and with an estimated 7 million file sharers in the UK if only a small percentage pay up then it is very lucrative, and we can expect a lot more companies to jump on this bandwagon.

    With ambulance chasers like this the Governments 3 strikes warning letters actually seems like a better alternative.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    We want you! To pay us money to leave you alone...

    Ah yes, good to see the courts are still rubber-stamping peoples personal information getting dished out by ISP's who have to hand it out or they will be the ones in legal trouble.

    I received one of these a fews years ago when Davenport were still pushing people around on dodgy "evidence". Their tactic, as I'm sure ACS will also be, was to word the letter in a very threatening manner to "encourage" people to pay up and not fight because putting up a fight would turn the £500 settlement into a tens of thousands of pounds legal battle.

    My letter met the bin because it wasn't sent using tracked post which would prove I had received the letter with enough time to respond to the allegations (which it didn't - it came 2 days before the deadline to pay £500 or else).

    Never heard from the sharks again.

  6. Leo Maxwell

    Attempted extortion

    These letters have no valid basis in law, in fact they are demanding money with menaces.

    They are worded as a threat of court action unless the recipient pays a fairly substantial sum. and they offer little proof.

    File with ambulance chasers and car clampers

  7. Jason Togneri

    Ah, but...

    I would just like to play devil's advocate for a moment and ask how many of these people have a weakly, or totally unsecured wireless network? They may have been victims at the expense of their own technical incompetence, and therefore the downloads may have been traced to the right IP.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      ahh but...

      Just imagine you decided you wanted to share your internet. Maybe you secured your machine to the point that you weren't worried about your connection being open, and decided in your wisdom to allow anyone to connect. Maybe you've even got a dual band router to do just that securely?

      Is it your fault if someone then abuses that freedom?

      Maybe the worst thing you've done is broken your license with internet service provider. I doubt however the fine for this will be £500..

      Not to mention that most people have no idea what WPA is... so it's not exactly their fault.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Stupidity or not reading the manual, is this a good defence?


      Ooops WEP was cracked and the nasty hacker did the downloading, I cannot be held accountable for the deficiencies of my ISP supplied router.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        That defence works nicely thankyouverymuch... least when you're the US gubmint and you want to make an example out of a "hacker". But of course, if you don't have the local gubmint brownnosing you it might not be a good move.

  8. Ian McNee

    Yes, this is a scummy job that ACS:Law are doing...

    ...and possibly not in the nicest manner, BUT...

    They are simply acting on behalf of media corps or trade associations who have a short-sighted view of how to monetise their (client's) copyrighted material. Perhaps El Reg can dig out who these companies are so that we can, if we so choose, withdraw our business from them.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      according to the BBC they represent, among other people, "German content firm DigiProtect" who in turn have "represented a range of rights holders in the past including the German techno band Scooter."

      So most likely just a bunch of assembly line muzak shite you wouldn't even waste your time stealing.

  9. Chris007

    one word


  10. J 3

    Not surprising...

    The scammers ALWAYS find a new angle to their activity. I wonder what took them so long, actually.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Data protection

    Presumably they have a file on the people they're accusing of copyright breach? So write to them under the Data Protection Act giving them 21 days to respond with all the information they are storing on you. No reply? Take them to the small claims court for breach of your DP rights.

    Worked for me when dealing with the DVLA, Passport people etc. Should work with a snotty legal firm.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Please elaborate

      I have had heaps of violations, so I would love to take this further. Given the amount of spam I get from UK companies I may not need to work this year again.

      If I don't get a sensible response, how do I turn that into a small claim? What value do I stick on this? I know it's all lovely online stuff, so that part is easy, but I don't know what exactly to go after them for. It would be very nice to seriously turn the tables on those monkeys in volume, because that's also the only way the judges will wake up.

      Actually, I think this merits an El Reg HOWTO (playmobil examples optional) - it would amount to launching a medium strength nuke right up where it would be termed "invasive"..

    2. david wilson


      >>"Worked for me when dealing with the DVLA, Passport people etc. Should work with a snotty legal firm."

      I'm curious what kind of information the DVLA or Passport guys could have on a person that that person hadn't provided in the first place, and didn't already know.

  12. Stone Fox

    could someone please explain something to me

    At the risk of appearing thing, I'm not sure I get this.

    The bulk of these people will be basic home internet users with a cheap, crappy router / ADSL modem and a dynamic IP address.

    Presumably they'll have unplugged the router at some point, or had to reset or replace it in the intervening time.

    Do the ISP's keep track of who had what IP at what time? Or is the IP recorded at the time then the data sat on for a year before sending a threatening letter? Isn't there a six month deadline on doing anything about this? (the last question being legal, rather than technical)

    1. Annihilator

      In a word

      "Do the ISP's keep track of who had what IP at what time?" Yes. For 12 months by law. Probably longer if they don't have deletion policies (likely, as it's never a priority)

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    everyone should read this

    Even if you're not an "illegal" downloader it doesn't mean you won't receive a speculative invoicing letter as mentioned in the article. The beingthreatened blog has put together a fantastic booklet of advice on dealing with these letters. Grab it here:

  14. The Fuzzy Wotnot

    Wonderful little company

    The law firm had a range of clients that it was representing, including German content firm DigiProtect. The company is based in Frankfurt and brands its business with the motto "turn piracy into profit".


    ACS:Law is currently under investigation by the Solicitors Regulation Authority


    They really do fit the the old joke, "What do you call a group of dead lawyers at the bottom of the ocean? A bloody good start!"

    1. Rattus Rattus

      At the bottom of the ocean

      That was a JOKE? Really?, oops.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      It's true

      It's 99% of lawyers that give the rest a bad name.

  15. Leo Maxwell


    An IP address is not proof, it can be spoofed, it can change, logs can be incorrect, times can be set incorrectly.

    For the "devils advocate", the German courts have already stopped accepting their demands because the data was dodgy in various ways, e.g. wrong time on their server, not allowing for international time zones, etc

    1. Annihilator

      IP Spoofing

      More devil's advocacy, sorry, but pray do tell how you spoof an IP address where you expect two-way communications?

      In principle tho, an IP address is not proof - but let's not bring technical voodoo into the argument.

      1. PeterGriffin
        Black Helicopters

        Polluted tracker list

        Not sure if you're aware but The Pirate Bay admitted they populated their tracker list with fictitious IP addresses with the intention of making evidence gathered from their tracker - unreliable. Since ACS:Law will not provide information about their detection technique we cannot be sure if they are connecting to the potentially infringing address and ensuring the infringing file exists.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Thumb Up


          How about polluting it with IP-addresses from, say, PeerGuardian? That should have the dogs chasing each other for some time.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Explain to me if you spoof your source IP address, how you expect to download any music?

      How will your download be routed back to your connection by the ISP?

      All reputable ISPs use unicast reverse path forwarding on all customer connections such that the source address cannot be spoofed and will be dropped at the entry point to the backbone. There has to be a valid route to the customer assigned address in the routing table or the packets will be dropped.

      Go figure.

  16. Lord Lien
    Paris Hilton

    So where does the money go.....

    "We are pleased with the results on the initial batches of issued claims, as we have found that 80% of all defendants opt for settlements outside of court, for amounts more than originally claimed."

    ^^ Taken from their website. Who gets this "money" they collect?

    Paris, because she can smell a scam when she sees one.

  17. Valerion
    Thumb Down

    Sound exactly like private car park fines

    Somebody can park a car with my number plate on (might be my car, might not, might be my IP address, might not.) and I get a ticket on it and then a "fine" comes through the post to me because the car is registed to me. It is not enforceable because a) It is not proven that the offence was commited by me (merely that a car bearing an identifier that could be spoofed was), and b) they have no authority to fine people. In fact all they can do is request damages according to their loss. That is known as an invoice.

    I don't see this as any different. If you are accused of downloading 5 movies then the damages should be the cost of those 5 movies. In fact it should really be the studio and rights-holders margins, and not the retail cost. They have no authority to fine you, only the courts do.

    If I hadn't read this and got one of those I would have assumed it was a scam along with the "send us £250 cos you've won the lottery and need to claim it!" scams and filed in the recycling bin.

  18. oioi

    still at it then

    i first came across these idiots at

    before they becam acs:lawless.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No contract

    If you get one of these nasty letters just write "Return to Sender No Contract" on the envelope.

    We had the performing Rights Society trying to extract a confession that we listened to music in the office so that they could demand a 'licence fee' from us. We just said, "piss off. We have no contract with you" .

    To see who else you can get rid of this way see <>

  20. 1of10

    are UK laws breeding new type of mafia

    What a nice business...

    The new mafia family... pay us £500 and we won't be meeting you in court.

    Suggestion - use that paper to wipe the bottom in one of those private moments, then send it back to its origin, with a reply...

    - As you can see, at that time I think I was busy with something else in different department therefore far away from computers. Thank you.

  21. Anonymous Coward

    Y? A? R? H?

    oh, the _other_ kind of pirate letters...

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    For the love of Joseph

    Ignore these clownpigs at your peril. The only 'successful' (although nobody seems to have any proof) court cases were against people that totally ignored the correspondence. Respond, be polite, and request detailed records and how they link their damages to your alleged infringement.

  23. Ed Blackshaw Silver badge

    I think it's time the word 'piracy' went back to meaning something more like its original meaning

    such as demanding money from innocent people via the use of threatening behaviour.

    On the high seas, of course.

  24. Anonymous Coward

    Stupid Stupid Stupid


    Andrew Crossley, of ACS:Law, said that some cases had been dropped although he declined to give numbers.

    He said that he is convinced the method used to detect the IP address used for illegal downloads is foolproof.

    "We are happy that the information we get is completely accurate," he said.


    So please explain why, with your fool proof system and completely accurate information, you have dropped some of the cases, thereby denying revenue to your clients?

  25. Velv Silver badge

    Chase the ambulance chasers

    Are there any lawyers out there willing to take on ACS:Law ?

    Given ACS:Law are continuing to issue claims of an alleged dubious nature, there would be a steady stream of income from the replies.

  26. BiggleFlysUndone

    Pulling the porn card

    Interesting that ACS have recently switched from accusations of movie and music downloads to porn downloads. They are obviously playing on the stigma attached to this accusation in an attempt to get a higher conversion rate of threats to cash.

    This alone tells me that they know they are on shakey ground. Elderly people accused of downloading porn....this has to stop!

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      That reminds me of another scam..

      Grin, I'd nearly forgotten that one, thanks for reminding me. This is from a while back, it will be self evident why.

      There was a company who advertised an article in some pr*n mags, well under the "market" price, delivery time 1 month. They collected orders for a month, then sent out letters to all who ordered that they apologised because they had exhausted stock, and the letter contained a cheque for the deposit value - all nice and valid, cheques were covered etc.

      These guys only got busted elsewhere because they got greedy, this scam was a totally legit bit of social engineering on which they made a fortune because only a few of the cheques got cashed.

      You see, some people don't like to present a cheque to the bank from the "Large Rubber Dildo Company"..

      Note: it wouldn't have worked with me because I would have picked the most senior guy in the bank to present it to, but my sense of humour is slightly more warped than most :-)

    2. david wilson


      >>"Are there any lawyers out there willing to take on ACS:Law ?"

      I guess that depends who's paying, and how sure a lawyer might be that they'd win if they weren't being paid by the target of a letter.

      If the letters *did* have some reasonable option for asserting doubt as to the infraction, but someone didn't reply to the letter and went straight for legal action instead, would they risk getting treated unsympathetically by the courts, maybe ending up paying for one or two sets of lawyers bills?

      If the letters *didn't* have some reasonable option for replying claiming innocence, you could be fairly confident they would have as soon as a case or two was lost on the basis of letters being unreasonable.

      Also, having court judgments that the evidence wasn't strong enough to pursue seem likely to lead to a hard-to-resist pressure for the means to collect better evidence, if those means don't already exist.

  27. VulcanV5

    It's the Andrew Crossley Show. . .

    Whoa, whoa, whoa . . . Do get this into perspective, people. Puh-leeeze.

    Repeatedly talking about "ACS:Law" and "them" and "they" makes this outfit appear to be a multi-national multi-partnered law firm whose size alone makes it a legal Leviathan against whom no defence by a poor ignorant punter is remotely possible.

    But it ain't.

    Rather, as ACS: Law readily acknowledges, it's Andrew J. Crossley. Sole Principal.

    Now. . . who can this Andrew J. Crossley possibly be?

    Well, surely not the Andrew Jonathan Crossley born in 1963, admitted as a solicitor in 1991, and of whom it was said "at a hearing on 31st October, 2002, the allegation that the respondent (Andrew Jonathan Crossley) had been guilty of conduct unbefitting a solicitor. . . was substantiated" (Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.)

    Not, then, that Andrew Jonathan Crossley fined £1,000 and ordered to pay £3,348.75p by way of costs to The Law Society.

    (* Solicitors Regulation Authority, Tribunal Findings, Case Record 9346, February 2006. I located the file online within five minutes of reading The Register's report today. Anyone else can do the same.)

    The Tribunal verdict on that Andrew Jonathan Crossley must be doubly embarrassing for the Andrew J. Crossley, sole principal, ACS:Law, seeing as how he is in zealous pursuit of people who fail to meet their obligations, whist the Andrew Jonathan Crossley who landed in serious professional trouble did so because he, er, failed to honour his obligations, to whit: he did not deliver his accounts in 2002; he did not deliver his accounts in 2003.

    Good God. What kind of a solicitor would do something like that? As was pointed out in the tribunal's findings:

    "The statutory requirement to file Accountant's Reports is important. The filing of such Report enables the Law Society to confirm to prospective clients that by placing their money with the solicitor concerned, they are not thereby placing their often very large sums of money in jeopardy. In essence, the failure of a solicitor to file Accountant's Reports prevents The Law Society from fulfilling its important regulatory function."

    Blimey. A solicitor whose conduct is so bad, it actually lands The Law Society itself in trouble?

    Well, that can't be Andrew J. Crossley, sole principal, ACS:Law.

    And it surely can't be Andrew Crossley, aged 45 as at December 2008, either, who in an interview with The Law Society Gazette at that time provided a quoted response so revealing of a commitment to Law and the pursuit of truth and Justice that it may possibly rank as one of the most inspirational ever to appear:

    Question: "Why become a solicitor?"

    Answer: "I love music -- I was a disk jockey for 25 years -- and thought a legal background would be one way to start a career in music."

    (For further enlightenment, Google for Law Society Gazette, Andrew Crossley, sex on the beach. . .)

    Oh. Hang on. Sorry. That last Andrew Crossley, who became a solicitor apparently because of some bizarre misapprehension that Mick Jagger made it big in The Rolling Silks, is indeed the same Andrew Crossley who is a, er, one-man band at ACS:Law.

    So there is a musical connection.

    All of which is to say:

    Posters on here, and El Reg itself, really ought to do some checking first before lamenting the conduct of giant international unstoppable unbeatable legal outfits like ACS:Law.

    And if Mr Crossley, Sole Principal, is reading this, I hope he'll accept my sympathy at seemingly being in possession of the same name as a solicitor who was nearly struck off for serious misconduct.

    As to Mr Crossley's sought-for musician's career, I sincerely hope it will be possible for him to embrace it sooner rather than later.

    And that everyone here on El Reg and elsewhere will now do their best to assist him in that regard.

  28. VulcanV5
    Paris Hilton

    Name of the game?

    Sorry, meant to say in my earlier post:

    Andrew Crossley's ACS: Law is, as any fule know, to be found at

    And this info is to be found at

    " domain names give UK specific nonprofits organisations and groups the benefits of creating a unique British web identity. If you run a non-commercial entity based within the UK, then the .org domain extension is probably the most suitable for you. With a .org.UK domain name your website will benefit from both a very high localised and trusted identity."

    Now, two possible explanations exist as to why a commercial outfit should have a domain name with the potential to mislead people into thinking it's something other than what it truly is:

    (1) The domain doesn't mislead. Mr Crossley is a solicitor, and certainly wouldn't have a domain in the sector were the profits rolling in. So ACS: Law isn't making a profit at all.


    (2) Mr Crossley's enterprise is indeed blatantly commercial, and has only finished up in the "charities" category because he is following the example of others who are, according to

    "seeing the benefits of protecting their brand name by registering a .org domain to lend credibility to the activities of a charitable arm of the business."

    This latter puts a wholly different slant on things.

    The address of ACS: Law is not there to mislead or confuse or, well, anything.

    Rather, it's all about the "charitable arm" of Andrew Crossley's enterprise -- presumably, a pretty substantial "arm" at that, given the overheads that the rest of the ACS: Law business is having to fork for its serviced office accommodation at 20 Hanover Square, Mayfair.

    (Oh, and please don't anyone say the address is one of those let's-pretend-it's-real things offered by specialist providers like, for example, Davinci Virtual.

    (ACS: Law is hardly likely to be in the business of pretending to a posh address in order to acquire so impressive a letterhead on the stuff it mails out as to make the recipient think he or she is dealing with a correspondent of substantial wealth and substantial resources.

    (I personally can't see any British law firm doing that kind of thing.)

    As to the status, I hope El Reg will be able to discover from Andrew Crossley how many charities are benefiting, and to the tune of how much, as a result of all those mass mail-outs from his Mayfair headquarters / domain registered location.

    It only takes just one elderly person wrongfully accused of a "crime" to fork out £500 or more and gosh, that's another charity -- somewhere -- that's probably all the better for Andrew Crossley's benevolence.

    So then. C'mon, El Reg.

    Though he seems to be shy when it comes to answering your calls, I'll bet that if you persist -- on behalf of El Reg readers everywhere -- Andrew Crossley will be more than happy to talk about his charity work, his days as a disk jockey, his ambitions to be a musician, his domain registration, and his legal career to date.

    And whatever else it is that has made him into the kind of legal practitioner he is today.

    * Paris Hilton. Now there's a posh address.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      No fair

      Now, now, don't fight back with truth there, this is after all a matter of law, not justice.

      Good work.

  29. Anonymous Coward

    What to do if a menacing letter drops through your letterbox

    The quickest thing to do is head over here,, read the article then download the free handbook. Very easy to follow, informative, reassuring and absolutely correct.

    Nice to know that ACS:Law has been so roundly criticised, by Lord Lucas, during the Digital Economy Bill debate in the House Of Lords (the nearest I've ever seen a member of that institution come to calling someone a scumbag). I'm sure he's worthy of a bit of investigative interest by whichever part of the Home Office is doing it now, bearing his closeness to the world of hard-core porn producers.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019