back to article Judge mulls 'wasted costs' as ACS:Law cases close

A London court yesterday officially closed the book on allegations of illegal file-sharing brought by ACS:Law against 26 defendants. In February, senior patent court Judge Colin Birss QC heavily criticised the law firm for pursuing alleged file-sharers with threatening letters and then ditching the cases, which led to claims …


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  1. Mahou Saru

    Since they brought up the 300k...

    Shouldn't the fine be whatever + the 300k?

  2. Anonymous John

    Re Media CAT

    I suppose that explains the picture of a CAT cable on the BBC news page.

  3. It wasnt me
    Thumb Up

    Good on that judge.

    I hope he does fine the bastards at ACS law. Then I hope he goes after the safety camera partnerships. Their letters are no different:

    Dear Mr X,

    You have been caught speeding, Send us £60 and we wont start legal proceedings. Taking the issue to court will cost you far more and we dont envisage you winning.

    Love, Avon safety camera partnership.

    Its exactly the same. Right down to the bit where you challenge their 'evidence' and they drop the case against you.

    1. Annihilator

      There's a word for it

      "Extortion" I believe.

      I also can't stand the quote of "made £300,000 from people who did pay the fines". They're not fines in the legal sense, they're out of court settlements and a promise not to pursue it further. It may sound like a pernickity detail, but a fine gives the impression of a legal punishment, when it's nothing of the sort.

      1. Havin_it

        Pernickety ... and wrong

        The judiciary doesn't own the word "fine". In fact most of the "fines" you encounter in day-to-day life (parking, library etc) are not judicially enforced unless a case is brought over non-payment.

      2. BristolBachelor Gold badge


        "...a promise not to pursue it further..."

        But these weren't settlements from the copyright holder (aledged), but to an independant 3rd party. Does this mean that the copyright holder could still pursue the people acused (or any other 3rd party for that matter)?

        Could ACS law come back with a different name and target the same people again?

        1. jonathanb Silver badge

          Re: Settlements

          The fact that the case wasn't brought by the copyright holder was part of the reason why it failed.

          There was discussion last time this came up about whether the copyright holder should be joined in the action. I'm not sure what happened, but no doubt the court papers will tell us.

          ACS law is the second incarnation. He did try a third incarnation, but that was shot down pretty rapidly. Given how badly this has failed, and the publicity generated, he would need to substantially change tactics before trying again.

        2. Naughtyhorse

          Could ACS law come back with a different name and target the same people again?

          oh please :-)

          can you imagine the reception this bottom feeding scum would get if they set up ther blag again?

        3. Anonymous Coward


          Yes, ACS law could rise again, indeed they already have!

    2. The Fuzzy Wotnot

      And the private road cameras too!

      A public acces road in my area, which leads to a Doctor's surgery and various other local services is covered by one of these cowboy outfits, you so much as brake in the road and you get a nasty letter,

      "Dear Piece-of-Dirt Car Driver,

      We caught you parked in the public access road, cough up £90 or we'll see you in court. If you cough up within 14 days well knock it down to £45 and say no more, wink, wink!"

      The advice on the local paper's website forums is simply ignore it and throw it in the bin, you will hear no more. I did get a letter after my wife stopped behind some Wally messing about in the road and I got the letter as the registered driver! So these scum have access to the DVLA reg car list and send out shitty letters to frighten people. I took one look at it, read the advice and binned it. That was 9 months ago, haven't heard thing since.

      The scumbag who runs this scheme is a local Rotarian and in with the local councillors, so unlikely we'd get any action from the cronies in the local offices about getting this removed.

      These scum need to be strung up by the lower of their coddlings until they promise to behave like normal people and stop screwing honest folks who've done nothing wrong!

      1. XMAN

        DVLA for all

        Interesting story. Just an FYI. Anyone can apply to the DVLA and find out the owners of a vehicle for a fee of about £2.50 (last time I checked).

        There are some requirements but they're not checked. Instead the assumption is made that your request for the information is legitimate.

    3. The First Dave


      There is one difference however, which hasn't been mentioned much, which is that MediaCAT are still going ahead with the threatening letters, just that they are using different solicitors now. That isn't something that the speed camera people can get away with!

  4. Chad H.

    So much for....

    So much for the majority paid up... Either theres some perjury going on or ACS law didn't even get the 15% payoff rate that Ars thinks would have netted millions.

    1. Annihilator

      Operating a loss

      Maybe they should have actually taken people to court in order to make a profit if they were so confident...

      Or maybe they should have thought it through before paying out a pile of money to get a list of "infringers" without knowing if they could see that investment return.

      It's not just that he's immoral (not unheard of for a shyster), but fairly inept as a businessman. My heart bleeds.

      1. Anonymous Coward


        They were liars from the start, and they still are.

        It's well known that they obtained well over 10,000 IPs (not inc the cases taken from davenporn liars) to suggest that they only got a return of as little as £300,000 is just taking the piss.

        Andrew managed to afford a new Land Rover according to the email leak, I'm sure he wasn't £450,000 out of pocket. Not to mention, £495 was the lower end they were trying to steal. Some letters were up to £1,500.

        1. Emperor Zarg
          Thumb Up

          Rich liars...

          Don't forget the £10k a month(!) houses he was looking at renting.

  5. irish donkey

    If they don't pay costs

    Then it will all be picked up by the taxpayer.

    Court is a battle ground where the loser pays. Just because one party decide that they no longer want to continue for what ever reason should be no reason to let them off the hook.

    Well done to everybody that stood up to them.

    Happy St Patrick's Day everyone

    1. Dr. Mouse Silver badge


      I don't think that's quite true.

      I do not know if the judge can make Crossley pay the actual court costs, although I hope he can.

      I think the people who will be most out-of-pocket are those who chose to defend themselves. They will have huge fees for their lawyers. They are the main costs which need to be recouped.

      I think, in this case, Crossley (or at least someone involved in this despicable extortion racket) should pick up all the costs involved. It would send a message to anyone thinking of doing the same in future.

  6. yeahyeahno

    300,000lbs of bullshit

    I don't believe that £300,000 figure at all.

    Crossly has claimed many other figures, much higher than that before.

    But given that journalists who attended Crossly's office described the phone ringing continuously with people paying, and £300,000 spread over the whole campaign is less than 2 payments a day, I think Crossly has at the very least bent the truth so much it no longer resembles the truth.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    Pay Up

    Of course ACS:Law should be made to pay ALL of the costs (not just Ralli, but the Court time too).

    They have clearly run a business trying to generate revenue on the back of the threat of legal actiion - demanding money with menaces. Given that NO case has ever been won in court (defaults don't count), ACS:Law should be subject to Police SFO investigation for their business practises.

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      You got to be kidding..

      "ACS:Law should be subject to Police SFO investigation for their business practices"

      Do you honestly believe that the police would bother to investigate? I admire your optimism..

      1. Anonymous Coward

        @Fred Flintstone

        What bit of "/should/ be subject to Police SFO investigation" (my emphasis) did you not understand?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Bent is probably being kind

      but the problem is that I don't know who I trust less, lawyers or journalists.

  8. Tom Kelsall
    Thumb Down


    Personally were I one of the ones who decided to pay I would now be entering the Small Claims track (£35) to get my £495 back; based on the fact that rather than having any legal basis it was indeed extortion. I would also be making a complaint to the Police about the perceived extortion. Let's see how long the "law firm" stays in business when there's a criminal conviction against them.

    I also want to see details of ACS:Law's client(s) who they claim to represent; it was my understanding that solicitors "act" on "instructions" from a client. Without instructions from a paying client I don't believe they can possibly have a legal basis for their actions...

    1. beerandbiscuits

      It's not as straightforward as it sounds

      It may well be that the people ACSL represented had no legitimate claim, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the file sharers can undo a payment made in settlement. A settlement of a claim (even before it is brought before a court) is a contract equivalent to "in exchange for you not suing me, I will pay you £x". Whether the proceedings would ultimately succeed is neither here nor there - you pay them off to stop them bringing the claim in the first place.

      I am not aware that there is any suggestion that ACSL did not have instructions from a client. My understanding is that it has now been shown in the proceedings that that client has no claim against the defendants, suggesting that he did have instructions. In any event, it is improbable that any of us will ever see them because they are privileged.

      Btw, the £300,000 figure probably means that there were far more than 600 who paid up. It is highly unlikely that ACSL would have kept the whole £500. Much more likely that they were entitled to keep a percentage on a contingency basis, with the remainder going to the client.

      1. jonathanb Silver badge

        No, but

        ACS Law, as a result of their misrepresentation, induced them to settle with someone who isn't actually the copyright holder. While they presumably did copy the works in question, as a result of them settling with the wrong person, they are still open to action from the legitimate copyright holder.

    2. s. pam

      @Tom Kelsall


      Make sure in your filing that you put a motion in demanding all e-Content: Emails, FAX's, SMS, etc that have been exchanged on the subject pertaining to your "prosecution" that contain any details: IP's, ISP contacts, Date of "pseudo-search @ ISP", ISP log location, etc. Failure for them to produce all content requested in a reasonable time frame (7-30 days) puts them in breach.

      All of that is normal and customary in any court case -- in your case getting this could well assist in nailing them even more given EU legislation on data privacy, human rights, etc.

      Nail the Barstewards -- doubt however you'll get a single £ p from them

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Justice needed

    "Andrew Crossley, who founded ACS:Law and is currently under investigation by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, was not in court on Wednesday. He said in January that he was quitting the cases that went to trial in a patent court in London earlier this year, citing "immense hassle" to him and his family."

    In other news, Mr Small Shark who had been bragging about his domination of the small pool was found begging aquarium staff for a transfer to another pool after the tunnel to the large pool opened, revealing the presence of larger and somewhat unhappy sharks.

  10. Ally J
    Paris Hilton

    Mr Crossley has form for fibbing

    As I recall, wasn't one of the emails made public him protesting that ACS:Law was a very small firm running on 'very narrow margins' or something? He wrote to Westminster council wriggling out of paying a fine for his rubbish with that excuse, while debating with his chums what sort of flash car to buy.

    I'd be inclined to view this statement that he's apparently lost money with his scam in the same light. He's man who we know told a little fib to get out of paying a small fine. It's not unreasonable to think he'd tell a WHOPPER of a fib to get out of paying a lot of money.

    Paris, because it's always good to see rich people with poor judgement getting fncked.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    "citing "immense hassle" to him and his family"

    Which is completely different from writing thousands of letters to people in order to give them and their families hassle about some gay porn movie which they know nothing about, isn't it?

    Oh, wait...

  12. NoneSuch

    Old Fashioned

    Call me old fashioned. When I see someone breaking the law I call the Police and let them sort it out.

    Asking someone for money with a threat implied (outside of the established police / legal process) is called extortion in my book.

  13. Tom 13

    Oh please, please, please Judge Colin Birss,

    I don't often pray for legal precedents, but this area of law is in desperate need of a GOOD one, even if it won't apply on my side of the pond.

  14. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. Chad H.

      Its not binding

      Its not precendent as the court is too low, although other courts are supposed to take notice of it they could rule differently in a similar case.

      To get it to be a precendent you're going to need this to be appealed to a higher court, or a similar case citing this one to go higher.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    Here Crossley......

    Suck on this (grenade), hoist with your own petard.

    Should be stripped, tarred and feathered then made to parade through the streets - worm.

  16. Darryl

    Screw 'em

    So he shouldn't have to pay anything because he only made a $300K return on his $750K "investment"? And maybe his poor family being subjected to "immense hassle"?

    Bullshit. Crossley and his cronies need to be punished harshly and the only thing that means anything to this type of person is money. The rest of the leeches out there need to see that trying to extort money from people in this way will result in harsh punishment.

  17. jai


    It's was pure extortion. These should be criminal proceedings, not just claims for recovering costs.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    Paper trail

    All the court will do is demand access to ALL of there there bank accounts, not just one they used.

    Also if remeber corretly ACS was not a limited business, for solicitor this could end up geting persionaly rather expensive.

  19. Anonymous John

    "Crossley had spent £750,000 on pursuing alleged online pirates."

    For banging out a shedload on threatening letters?

    1. Goat Jam

      Well, Yes

      You have to understand how solicitors think, as well as the fact that they are greedy, money grubbing scumbags.

      First off, be aware that while a solicitor has your file open on his desk, every time he scratches his arse he sends you a bill. Letter writing is particularly lucrative. You would be amazed at how many letters a solicitor can send out "on your behalf" and how much you are billed for each and every one.

      So, when Crossley says he *spent* $750K, what he means is that he sent out X letters which, if he had have been able to bill them to an actual client, he would have cost $750K.

      However, because he was his own client he didn't get to bill anyone*

      It is sort of like when Microsoft pays one of their many fines with "Free software to schools". When they pay a $1 million dollar fine like that it really only costs them a few pennies but they count the cost as being the gross value of the potential sales of the licenses even though a software license is an entirely ephemeral thing that costs zero to reproduce.

      * I would be shocked if he didn't slip more than a few of these letters into bills for other clients though, but this can't be proved so we will let that slide.

  20. Winkypop Silver badge

    Hey, Crossley!!!

    Suffer in ya jocks!

  21. Anonymous Coward

    Birss for PM

    My mother always said liars always get found out in the end. Perhaps she should have said wankers.

    It restores a good deal of faith to see a Judge on the right side of the facts and with an especially fine grasp of surgically delivered language. I hope Crossleys personal version of hell is an endless amplified loop that replays the moment he twigged the game was up with sound accompaniment from a 3rd rate grumble flick.

  22. GloucesterMatt

    Information Commissioners Office

    No news on the ICO complaint yet either.

    On 29 September they stated they were investigating:

    Whats taking so long????

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