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More innocent consumers accused of file sharing

Consumers facing fines for alleged downloading

Scales of justice

More innocent people are being accused of illegally sharing video games and facing the threat of court action if they don’t pay hundreds of pounds in compensation, says Which? Computing.

The computing magazine has heard from frightened internet users who face paying up to £665 compensation for illegally sharing copyrighted games and music despite them having no knowledge of alleged offence.

File sharers hunt

The claims come from lawyers at ACS Law, which has sent out nearly 6,000 letters on behalf of firms such as Reality Pump and Topware Interactive, who are copyright owners of games Two Worlds and Dream Pinball.

ACS Law is working on behalf of some of the clients once represented by London law firm Davenport Lyons. Both law firms get lists of alleged file-sharing IP addresses from a company called Logistep. A court order then forces Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to reveal the identity of the person behind the IP address or internet connection.

Andrew Crossley: from ACS Law has defended the process used to identify file sharers. He said: ‘The processes and methods employed by our client’s IT experts to produce the evidence which is then submitted to the ISPs, has been the subject of a number of detailed investigations and reports prepared by a qualified information technology consultant including a UK court certified expert.’

But the Internet Service Providers Association has said that ISPs aren’t convinced that the right people are identified during this process.

File-sharing crackdown

This comes soon after the government promised to get tough on illegal file sharers in its Digital Britain report published in June. The report says that ‘piracy of intellectual property for profit is theft and will be pursued as such through the criminal law.’

Which? Computing editor Sarah Kidner says: ‘The government is calling for a crackdown on illegal file sharers, which is right and proper, but we have some serious concerns about the process that identifies alleged file sharers and we believe that innocent people are being accused.’

Last year, Which? Computing asked the Solicitors Regulation Authority to investigate whether Davenport Lyons had breached various rules contained in the Solicitors’ Code of Conduct, including using bullying tactics, and ignoring evidence presented by consumers in their defence. The investigation is ongoing.

If you’ve received a letter from ACS Law you can email us at whichcomputingnews@which.co.uk

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