Tilly, Bailey and Irvine Solicitors (TBI) has said it will stop sending out letters of claim, accusing people of illegally sharing copyrighted material, because it fears the adverse publicity generated by the work could impact negatively on its business.
In a letter sent to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) on April 1, TBI wrote: ‘We have been surprised and disappointed at the amount of adverse publicity that our firm has attracted in relation to this work and the extra time and resources that have been required to deal solely with this issue.
‘We are concerned that the adverse publicity could affect other areas of our practice and therefore following discussions with our clients, we have reluctantly agreed that we will cease sending out further letters of claim.
TBI concluded: ‘We should stress that this decision is based on purely commercial reasons and does not alter our view that our conduct has always complied with the Solicitors Code of Conduct (SCoC).’
Readers’ complain to Which? about TBI
Earlier this year, Which? received a number of complaints from readers who had received letters from TBI accusing them of illegally sharing pornography via the internet. The readers were threatened with legal action unless they agreed to pay £700 in compensation within 14 days.
After reviewing the letters, Which? asked the SRA to investigate TBI’s conduct, which it considered to be in breach of the SCoC.
Have you received a letter wrongly accusing you of illegal file-sharing? Read our advice on how to respond to file sharing accusations
Commenting on TBI’s decision to quit the illegal file sharing arena, Deborah Prince, Which’s head of in-house legal, said: ‘This is fantastic news. I’m really pleased to hear that TBI has seen sense and has decided to move out of the volume file-sharing litigation business.
‘Hopefully, other law firms thinking of going down a similar route will begin to realise that although this work can generate vast financial rewards for law firms and their clients, it can also bring a lot of adverse publicity simply because the practice is inherently unfair and unethical.
‘The letters of claim that we have seen from three law firms [ACS Law Solicitors, Davenport Lyons and TBI] have been disproportionate responses to the alleged illegal file sharing activity. We also believe they were bullying in tone and that the behaviour of these firms breached the SCoC.’
Which?’s view on illegal file sharing activity?
Dr Prince added: ‘With regards to any alleged illegal file sharing activity, Which? favours the proportionate and graduated response advocated by the Digital Economy Bill not simply scaring people, many of whom are innocent, into out of court settlements because they feel disempowered financially to fight the claim in court.
In light of TBI’s decision to stop sending out further letters of claim, the SRA said it was considering whether any further action against the firm was necessary.
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