back to article Copyright lawyers accuse 25,000 UK videogame filesharers

The copyright ambulance-chasers at Davenport Lyons have a High Court order demanding 25,000 UK ISP subscribers' names and addresses, it emerged today. Davenport Lyons will send letters to the addresses it obtains demanding £300 to avoid a potentially costly court battle. The London law firm hit headlines on Tuesday when it …

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  1. Alexis Vallance

    Shared connection

    In a house or flat with 2 or 3 people sharing one wireless connection, it would be difficult to prove who actually downloaded and shared the game I would have thought.

    A friend of a friend received one of these notices last year about a Codemasters game and demand for £300. They just ignore it and nothing happened.

  2. Sean O'Connor
    Stop

    @ac

    > So, how does that FACT fit in with the theory that all copies equal a lost sale? Tell me!

    It's irrelevant whether copying reduces the number of sales a developer makes or not. Why can't you understand that it's not up to you what you do with my copyrighted material? If I write a game it's up to me what the price is, it's up to me how it's sold and it's up to me how it's used. If you don't like that then just don't buy it.

  3. Mycho Silver badge

    @Courts order use of Microsoft products

    You know you could follow that order using only OpenOffice right?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Re: What a load of Whinging - INFRINGEMENT OF COPYRIGHT IS NOT A CRIME. Please read the law.

    "What a load of Whinging

    By Anonymous CowardPosted Thursday 21st August 2008 00:05 GMT To everyone bleating about privacy and the decline of human rights....Of course your ISP cant give out personal details to 'anyone', but with a court order its a different story. The court order is granted on the basis that people appear to have commited a crime here - and yes despite your whinging and bleating copyright infringement is still a crime."

    ---------

    Ok, this is why non-lawyers should actually read the law before commenting on this type of issue (yes, IAAL).

    It is not (I repeat NOT) a crime to file share on this scale. It is a breach of s.16 CDPA 1988. That means the copyright holder can sue you for damages, but it isn't a crime. The police can't get involved and you can't go to jail for it. The only way it could be a crime is if you shared files on a commercial scale and fell foul of s.107.

    People like FACT would like you to believe that file sharing is a crime, equivalent to theft, but it isn't. The law of theft is governed by an entirely different regime (read the Theft Act 1968). The reason we have a separate system of law for intellectual property is that it is utterly impossible to commit the offence of theft in relation to any copyright/patent/trade mark/design right.

    Please read the law before adding your 2p. Thanks.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Pirate

    Turn The Tables

    An enterprising individual should be able to...

    1. Write a copywrited program (code) of their own

    2. Seed said program on various torrent sites / p2p programs

    3. Discover DL's IP address at a a time of convinience (10am monday should do it)

    4. Apply to the court with the DL IP and start the same legal process they employ.

    5. Sit back and wait

    Now there are 3 outcomes...

    1. They admit liability and pay you money

    2. They goto court and defend it

    3. They goto court and loose it.

    ------------------------------------------------------

    A. if 1 or 3 : rinse and repeat 1million times over :

    B. If 2 : distribute the defence for all to use.

  6. blackworx
    Alert

    Odious

    Illegal filesharers = bad and wrong

    Davenport Lyons = scum-sucking, bottom-feeding, money-grubbing shower of odious little shitbags

    In my humble opinion

  7. Mark
    Pirate

    @Sean O'Connor

    It is up to us to decide what to do with your copyrighted material. We bloody GAVE you copyright, which tells you what you can restrict with your copyrighted material.

    And if we feel you have broken the terms of the deal, we WILL ignore your copyrights. You ignored our rights too.

  8. JimC Silver badge

    @Turn the Tables

    6) Go to jail for fraud...

    Fact is folks, that everytime there's another post on the lines of "Doodz I'm gonna keep on sharing those warez and there's nothing you can do to stop me" you increase the chances of really draconian legislation.

    Sure there are legal uses for file sharing. There are also legal uses for shotguns, but if you walk down the street in London carrying one the police are going to shoot you first and ask questions later...

  9. Keir Snelling

    Data Protection question

    I may be out of kilter here, but I seem to remember that in the early days of the data protection act, much was made of the ability of individuals to use to the act to force an organisation to remove all data from their systems that pertained to them, the individual.

    Is/was that correct?

    If it still is, and I were a customer of one of those ISPs and I knew I had been illegally file sharing, I might well be tempted to cease my agreement with the ISP, and then send them a data protection request, requiring them to remove any and all data from their systems that pertained to me.

    Then, when shylock,shyster and shwindle knock on their door demanding that they reveal personal details associated with a given IP address, they wouldn't have any record that linked to me.

    Of course, this only works if my original assertion was correct, and I'm not so sure.

  10. Sooty

    silly question

    whats to stop you buying said game, for £5 or whatever bargain bin price dream pinball would be, as soon as you recieve the demand for £300. Ignoring the demand and as soon as legal proceedings start say you own it already and are perfectly legally allowed to download a copy. Presumably if you kept the reciept it would even show that you bought it before legal proceedings started.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    Ah, this old chestnut.

    Computer says no:

    http://tech.blorge.com/Structure:%20/2008/04/05/french-anti-piracy-lawyer-with-logistep-banned-from-practice-for-6-months/

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Mark

    >We bloody GAVE you copyright, which tells you what you can

    >restrict with your copyrighted material.

    So generous of you to tell me what I can do with my own work.

    Thank you sir..

    *doffs cap*

    Heaven forfend I would attempt to make money from my own sweat and tears.

  13. Muscleguy Silver badge
    Alert

    It is LOSE, not loose

    <rant> your bowels may be loose, your shoelaces may be loose and so may be your morals. However you lose money, you lose your car keys and you lose your virginity </rant>

    Someone who lives in Scotland and has only used Bittorrent to get items I could not pay for. Such rights holders should pay attention to the market.

  14. adnim Silver badge

    @sooty:silly question

    The case revolves around the 25,000 allegedly making the said game available for download to other parties, not downloading the game itself. So I am afraid claiming to have purchased the game would not help.

    Concerning claims that DL may have hacked or intruded into the systems of these 25,000 to determine that this game was made available by them to others, doesn't hold water either. All DL would have to do is use a torrent/p2p client and attempt to download a shared copy of the game. The IP addresses of all those sharing the game would appear in the torrent/p2p client or a TCP/IP connections view.

    Now here's a thought, could the defendants in this case claim not to have provided the copyrighted product as a whole? The way torrents/p2p work is that each person sharing software in the network provides only part of the software in question, which when taken separately from what others provide is pretty much useless. Could the defendants claim that they only provided x% of the software to DL, and DL should adjust their compensation request accordingly. IANAL so I am likely clutching at straws.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I hope they all refuse, and lets see what happens.

    I don't see how this is going to work unless they're hoping that the scare is enough to make people pay up.

    First of all what/ where is the proof?

    If they have a list of numbers (IP addresses) , one error in the numbers can mean that an innocent person is 'found guilty'. A list of numbers is not evidence.

    There is bound to be more than 1 person using the IP address, so they would have to track down and prove who was using it at the time.

    Secondly, if everyone refuses, do they have the funds to take 25,000 individuals to court and prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they actually illegally downloaded the game? Considering wifi, multiple users etc etc. I really don't think they can do it.

    Why are internet privacy (etc) rules so loose? If I bought a landline phone and plugged it in and they didn't make it clear that people in the area could log on anytime and make calls through my paid for service (amongst other things!), I could sue THEM.

    But when it's an internet line they are trying to place the blame on the bill payer. Why? Someone needs to go to court with a good lawyer and fight this properly. The sheer number of unsecured wifis is proof enough that most people don't even know they have to secure it, let alone know how to. It's the same with data mining, and hidden terms and conditions on website; If I signed up to a phone service and they didn't tell me they would be recording my calls, or listening in, I could easily sue them. A website's terms and conditions are comparable to having to phone a certain number by chance and someone THEN telling you about the fact that they are storing all your personal info and using it.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    So if perhaps one was a Be subscriber...

    ... that's downloaded the odd dodgy movie, how soon would one expect to be on the receiving end of a big stick? And how would one, theoretically, go about finding out if it was your details that were given out?

  17. adnim Silver badge

    Tears hair out in frustration

    This is about making the software AVAILABLE for download. Not downloading it.

    "prima facie case that each of the subscribers associated with the IP addresses... have copied the Applicant's work(s) on to his or her personal or office Computer without the [rights holder's] permission for the purpose of making it available via file sharing".

    So it doesn't matter how it was copied to disk, whether from purchased media, a torrent/p2p or binary newsgroup.

    If DL wanted to pursue downloaders they would have to make the software available themselves or via a third party, and log IPs of connecting machines. In which case once the demand for "compensation" with menaces came through the post, the downloaders could simply secure delete the file and say "I personally have never downloaded this software, prove it". Or state "My click was misdirected, I thought it was something else, as soon as I realised what it was I deleted it". Much harder to prove intent and subsequent illicit use of the software.

  18. Paul Charters
    Stop

    How about...

    How about we all just start boycotting games from any company that hires a firm like Lyons Extortionists (or whatever they're called)...

  19. Boabietugger
    Unhappy

    Bastards got me

    I succumbed to DL when they accused me of uploading a game I've never even heard of (Twin Worlds I think it was called). Wife heavily pregnant and no idea how to prove my innocence I just gave them their bloodmoney which exceeded £700.

    At the time they accused me of I was running an insecure wifi as Virgin refused to replace my buggered modem, that kept disconnecting when I had WEP enabled. Did I think something would happen? No.

    I don't download or upload anything. My newborn daughter can't crawl yet so unlikely that she did it, moreso as she wasn't even conceived at that time anyway. My wife surfs shopping sites. My son would have been 2 at the time, so again, unlikely that he was responsible.

    However I paid them as I didn't know how to prove my innocence and I WAS NOT putting my wife through any stress during her pregnancy. Now reading some of these comments is making me wonder if I should have stood up to them.

    I'll be interested to watch this 'cause if there are any chinks in their armour I'll be seeking legal advice and asking for my money back.

    Good luck if they come at any of you. Fight 'em! They are picking on innocent people as well as guilty ones.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    Some questions...

    What if I'm a naughty filesharer, but I have never downloaded or shared this 3D pinball game? Am I likely to receive a letter? If I do, will the letter specifically reference the game?

    One comment ("Not legal advice" by AC) suggested a file sharer should pay up and think themselves lucky they got away with only £300. It's reasonable advice on the face of it. BUT - how do we know that another firm of scumbag lawyers won't come around from, say Adobe, or Microsoft, claiming I downloaded copies of Photoshop or Windows XP (I'd never bother downloading Vista, obviously)? Presumably the settlement with DL would only protect me from further claims aganst the Pinball game? Would settling with DL constitute an admission of guilt in future litigation?

    Is there a "statute of limitations" on file sharing? I know it's not a criminal offence, but let's say this DL fiasco finally scares me into quitting P2P. At what point in the future would I be "safe" from further litigation?

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    It's a phising (sic) exercise

    25,000 @ £300 a pop is £7.5m

    If just 10% of said 25,000 rollover and pay the £300 then both parties (DL and Dream Pinball 3D writers) I would imagine will be happy. I would expect they are hoping for a nearer 60% rollover rate but anything above 10% will still be a good result based on the price of this product and it's inital "massive" (sic) sales they had.....

    Paris: She "rolled" over for more than £300

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    RE: Some questions...

    They are not only pursuing people over 3D pinball. They are representing quite a few games pulishers, two of the biggest being Atari Europe (The Witcher, UnrealTournament3) and Codemasters (Dirt). They do specify which "Work"(game), as they refer to it, has been shared and even the date and time of the offence. It only relates to that specific "work" or game, so if you're a multiple offender, who knows how many times they can demand cash.

    It's all pretty specific and as the "Not legal advice" ANON said, if you know you're guilty, pay and learn. But if you aren't I'm starting to believe, from what I've read, that you're still taking a huge risk to challenge their accusations. The methods they have used, although questionable and flimsy, will always sway in the way of the plaintiff in these civil cases unless you can prove innocense. With them not being able to 100% prove guilt, you won't have much chance proving innocense unless you have Johnnie Cochran on your side of the bench and the glove doesn't fit. Wait, no, you'd still be boned...

    Unfortunately it seems that the first to sue has the advantage in this type of case and always has the advantage and you are left playing catch-up to try win the judge over and make him question the allegations. Also, the law that the guilty party has to pay legal fees for both sides deters most people from taking the chance to stand up for themselves.

    I've learnt a lot over the last four days about how this country works and indeed most others too. My conclusion? If you are the little man, you get stepped on and pushed around by the big man and you'll smile while he does it, even though their empires are built on people like you. Rage Against the Machine tomorrow night will make me feel so much better...

    Seize the metropolis, it's you its built on.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Blackmail

    Pay us £300 or we'll take you to court and win £16,000.

    Isn't this blackmail?

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm confused...

    As I understand it, the Lawyers get a list of IP addresses, then approach the company concerned to see if they want to pursue damages. Surely until the company says yes, the lawyers are ‘breaking the law’ in just the same fashion as everyone else?

  25. Bounty

    hmmm

    Do you happen to sell iPhone apps? http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/08/06/iphone_pointless/ and if that app ends up on a torrent site.... DEAR GOD!

    Also, I think you have to show damages. The thing is, even at 100% if all those people would have purchased the game (NOT), it's still not that much money. We're talking about 250,000. So that should be the max total damages. Now divide by 25,000 = 10 each... this whole 300-16,000 thing is ridiculous. These judges don't understand how torrents work. If anything they should have to prove you uploaded 1234 Megs of this game to the network. Lets say the game being 80Mb in size.. so 15 - 16 copies * 10 = fee of 160 for someone who was heavily seeding the game. (why should a person who only uploaded 1/4 of one copy of the game be charged the same as someone who uploaded 50 copies?)

    Even with laywer and court fees, spread between 25,000 users, the whole 16,000 per person thing is dumb. IANAL but maybe if you did DL it, and didn't seed much, see if they'll take £40 and consider your lesson learned.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Halo

    Licenses Anyone?

    Forgive me if I'm wrong here, but ... they don't sell you the game, they sell you a license to use the game, as I read about Microsoft support saying "we don't care if you download a torrent for Windows XP, so long as you have a legal license".

    Up to the point where you install the game, you're not breaching that license, therefore isn't it logical that these punk arse lawyers need to prove that not only did you download the game, but also installed and used it?

    And that anyone who downloaded it from you, also installed and used it, because up to that point, you haven't breached the license?

    Most EULAs (I haven't checked a game recently) state that if you do not agree with the license agreement, do not install the software and return it to the manufacturer for a refund (of the license cost).

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Blackmail & The Bounty

    >Isn't this blackmail?

    No, the threat is legal action, and thus from a legal standpoint, is not a threat.

    One should look forward to one's day in court so that one may demonstrate one's innocence. If only it worked like that eh?

    @Bounty : Hmmmm

    >We're talking about 250,000. So that should be the max total damages.

    >Now divide by 25,000 = 10 each... this whole 300-16,000 thing is ridiculous.

    This highlights the problem with bad grammar.

    If we're talking about 250,000 (copies?) then the damages of 6000 pounds is 2.4 pence per copy. If you mean 25,000 copies then it's 24 pence per copy.

    If you mean 250,000 pounds then they got off lightly, equally if you mean 25,000 pounds.

    If you mean you think a copy is worth 10 pounds then buy the game it's cheap.

    Don't forget, 10k pounds of the fine were costs incurred by bringing the case, had the damages been 2.4 pence it would have still cost the defendant 10,000 pounds. Although you'd hope a court would have a thought about a difference like that.

    Besides it's not necessarily a per copy thing, it's the value of the _rights_ that you have stolen, that is, the right to give away copies.

    >see if they'll take £40

    A counter offer is actually not too bad a response, they must respond to it which requires legal advice which doesn't (shouldn't!) get included in the costs when you're taken to court. There's also probably an argument that the damage is only 300 pounds since that's what they asked for.

  28. Adrian Jooste
    Gates Horns

    Licenses anyone?

    That's a very good point. I know you have to always accept the terms and conditions of the software before you install it and if you don't accept them, the installation doesn't continue. I'm assuming that in those T's & C's it has a licensing section with all kinds of crazy clauses.

    I truly believe that this £16,000 win DL has had is all very convenient. Now all of a sudden they asking for 25,000 more names. It started with only 300 last year, then a further 750. They are obviously getting a lot of people to fall for their strong arm, "I AM THE LAW" judge dread tactics and forking over cash left, right and centre.

    I'm thinking that if you ask some of the questions mentioned by Reg readers above, you won't get a response and you won't hear from them again. They playing the percentage game, and they winning.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Not just £300

    The ISP charge the law firm to give the detail of the IP back, and that gets transferred on to the person. And they have been putting 6+ of the same IP on the list not to mention others and that all gets added together for some reason.

    More like they want close to £1000 not £300 or they will attempt to take you to court.

    Also these cases are civil matters, but they have been sending court orders to the ISPs. I thought that was against the law?

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