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30,000 UK ISP Users Face Threat Letters For Suspected Illegal File Sharing 218

Posted by timothy
from the my-god-it's-full-of-laws dept.
Mark.JUK writes with this excerpt from ISP Review: "Solicitors at ACS:Law have been granted approval by the Royal Courts of Justice in London to demand the private personal details of some 30,000 customers suspected of involvement with illegal file sharing from UK broadband ISPs. The customers concerned are 'suspected' of illegally file sharing (P2P) approximately 291 movie titles, they now face threatening demands for money (settlement) or risk the prospect of court action. It's noted that 25,000 of the IP addresses that have been collected belong to BT users."
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30,000 UK ISP Users Face Threat Letters For Suspected Illegal File Sharing

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  • It will never end (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 27, 2009 @08:13AM (#30244786)

    We'll build a decentralized network before we allow you to dictate which information we may copy. We have the technology, we have the know how and you're giving us the motivation.

    • by RobotRunAmok (595286) on Friday November 27, 2009 @08:23AM (#30244844)

      We'll build a decentralized network before we allow you to dictate which information we may copy.

      Information? I thought it was Hollywood movies that were being copied and distributed...?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by TheRaven64 (641858)
        Technically, information is stuff that isn't noise. Noise is stuff that is random. Random sequences are those that can't be generated by a program that is smaller than the data, and therefore can't be compressed. Hollywood movies are being distributed in compressed form, therefore can be compressed, and are therefore information. Mind you, so is a sine wave.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 27, 2009 @09:12AM (#30245118)

      We'll build a decentralized network before we allow you to dictate which information we may copy. We have the technology, we have the know how and you're giving us the motivation.

      Actually it will end. When films become unprofitable to make then there won't be anything to pirate. Can't happen? Who makes films and who funds them. As everyone has noticed the businessmen have taken over so artists aren't doing it out of love. Also what are the big films everyone wants to see? 2012 and Avatar? They cost 250 to 350 million to make. Even the Twilight films cost a lot. Yes there will always be movies but one day the only Star Trek feature being made may be by a fan in his garage. I've heard people boast that fan films are superior but virtually all of them are knock offs of studio films or TV shows and few approach professional quality and the acting is uniformly bad. Theaters are struggling, that's why popcorn is $5+. Network TV is dying fast. Cable is mostly jam packed with commercials just trying to stay above water. Hey advertising will bring on a golden age where everything is free. Well back in the day we called that TV and it's dying. So far the ad based web content has faired poorly at being profitable and doesn't come close to covering the cost of even cheap productions. "But they'll find a way or they'll do it for free". So far no one has come up with an alternate way to fund movies, theatrical and DVD still cover all production costs and people like to eat so working for free isn't an option. Older viewers still mostly pay but Gen X'ers don't like to pay and Tweens feel they shouldn't have to pay. Gradually the older crowd dies off and what you are left with are a bunch of people demanding content but refuse to pay. Already average studio film budgets are 20X what they were 30 years ago and it keeps getting worse. I've been on the ground with it and theatrical releases of any size cost 15 to 25 million, hard numbers not creative accounting. That's prints and advertising. Even electronic distribution cost money. Hey just web release films? How do you return even the investment on a 250 million dollar film through web streaming? And I know everyone says "to hell with them for expecting profits" but who is going to put up 100 to 250 million without any profit? It's easy to say if we stick together we can win this one but what do you win if you kill off the very thing you are fighting over? I used to see 1 to 3 films every week in a theater. Now I've seen less than a dozen all year, probably far less. The drop in quality is partly caused by the drop in profitability of films. They are less likely to take a risk so now you get remakes of remakes and few original films. Most of the quasi original films are effects epics with little story. And television, name three good TV shows? I can't. I like one US TV show and watch a handful out of morbid curiousity but they just aren't getting any better. Piracy will end when there just isn't anything worth pirating. Who wins then?

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        When films become unprofitable to make then there won't be anything to pirate. Can't happen?

        Can't happen. What you're effectively saying is that people will stop expressing themselves. Sure, 250 million dollar movies may be a fluke, an aberration never to return, but people will keep making movies, and they will be interesting, funny, engaging, soothing, provoking and everything you can imagine, because that's human nature. There's an abundance of information out there. You couldn't possibly consume a percent of all music, not even a percent of all music you like. Even watching movies 24/7 would l

      • Re:It will never end (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Artifakt (700173) on Friday November 27, 2009 @10:01AM (#30245484)

        So what's the difference between film ending because of piracy and film ending because nobody has any spare income to afford entertainment? You want to sell 100 Million tickets in the US, better have at least 100 Million people with enough income to reasonably afford it. Means is more basic than intent. You can (maybe) change the minds of people who have intent to watch without paying, you can (maybe) convince them to buy your formula blockbuster without clocking in that predictable thrill-ride is an oxymoron, but you absolutely can't provide them with the means to buy a ticket and still make a profit.
                Right now, the film industry is reaping the 'benefits' of real wages having remained static for most since the 1970's as taxes rose, savings declines, and credit moved from something good customers paid off quickly to a lifetime of working for the credit companies. The industry is far from the only one, but they get to blame the problems on pirates instead of looking at the other factors.

      • by erroneus (253617) on Friday November 27, 2009 @10:15AM (#30245602) Homepage

        I find it fascinating and amusing that people fail to appreciate that people are quite naturally creative and expressive. That some fairly small group of people has effectively taken control of that and made it into an industry worshipped by the masses is something that happened after the fact. Creativity and expressiveness enabled the industry. The industry does more to control and limit creativity and expressiveness than it does to encourage it. In fact, many ideas and concepts (both good and bad) are kept silent by the industrialists. One only has to point to Firefly and a few others to see how it happens.

        There will always be some people who will do it for fun instead of profit. Always.

        The industrialists are simply too greedy and do not appreciate the peril they bring upon themselves. They have made lots of money over the past 20 years... their best years so far. The problem is that it is not enough for them. "Growth" is their metric for success. There is no perceived cap or saturation point in their business vision. If anything slows their growth, they will find a way to destroy it or use it as an excuse to get more legislation written in their favor.

        Their foundation is their audience... their customers. They seek to weaken their foundation. What happens to their structure when the foundation is weakened? Nothing surprising about that.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by JPLemme (106723)
        There are only so many hours in a day, and there are only so many movies and television shows that people can consume. If the costs of reproduction and distribution fall precipitously, people aren't going to see ten movies a week or watch TV for an additional four hours a day. They'll just spend less money to consume about the same amount of content. That would be true even in a world with no piracy. And with more bandwidth to fill, that smaller pool of money needs to fund the creation of even more content.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Shakrai (717556)

        Jesus dude, you make some really great points, but haven't you ever heard of the <p> tag?

  • Better in Italy (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 27, 2009 @08:13AM (#30244788)

    Strange to say, but in Italy we protect more our privacy than in UK: our Data Privacy Authority decided that it's against the law to provide a correspondence between IP Address and real person name if the suspected violation is only for copyright issues.

  • by asdf7890 (1518587) on Friday November 27, 2009 @08:22AM (#30244836)

    I wonder how they found the 25000 BT users - it seems odd that 25,000 out of 30,000 come from one ISP if they found them by any public means (i.e by joining swarms on public trackers and seeing which IPs are also operating in the swarm).

    My guess is that while they were testing Phorm's targeted-advertising-based-on-snooping technology they were also did something very similar to what Virgin are planning (from the earlier story today "CView's deep packet inspection is the same technology that powered Phorm's advertising system" - CView being what Virgin plan to use to inspect P2P traffic).

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I hope if BT turns over the personal details of these 25000 customers they all quit their contract the same day along with any sympathizers. That ought to show them customer privacy is in their best interest too.

    • by u38cg (607297)
      My suspicion is that these are broadband accounts which have gone through a reseller. BT has something like 400 resellers on its books, so a substantial number of people going through $SOME ISP are actually getting service from BT.
      • by asdf7890 (1518587)
        Yes but several large ISPs have numerous resellers, so I still wouldn't expect such a strong skew to one ISP even considering that. Even allowing for resellers, BT's user base is not even close to that high a portion of the overall Internet connected population of the UK (unless you are counting the exchange equipment, but that is a separate matter).
    • by Xest (935314)

      The numbers are already messed up, the article above says 30,000, 25,000 of which are BT. The BBC article says only 15,000:

      http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/8381097.stm [bbc.co.uk]

      So how many people really are covered I wonder?

    • ..simple Most people are BT Customers, or Customer of BT Wholesale via a third party

      BT is the Commercial version of the old Government run monopoly that existed before it was sold off ...So naturally most people stayed with them, and since BT Wholesale is by far the largest Broadband provider (for the same reasons) they supply broadband to most of the resellers

      • by asdf7890 (1518587)
        If they are talking about BT Wholesale then maybe the 25K/30K isn't massively far off expected, but I suspect they are talking about BT Broadband - the ISP part of the organisation. Most ADSL providers go through BT Wholesale for access to their exchange equipment and backhauls and officially BT Broadband is just one of those ISPs. BT won't have been monitoring traffic at the exchange/backhaul level, it will have been monitored at the ISP level so they would not see the users of other ISPs like Demon for in
  • by cerberusss (660701) on Friday November 27, 2009 @08:23AM (#30244838) Homepage Journal

    Guess it's time to get a Relakks [relakks.com] account. Basically you use a VPN account which gives you some random Swedish IP address. This will keep you off the radar of those collecting IP addresses for a while.

    Not related to them or anything, I was just a satisfied customer for a few months. I gave it up when I realized I almost never downloaded movies and music anymore.

    • I've found exactly the same as this. I've not bought or downloaded any new movies songs, or consumed any media from Big4 or Hollywood in a long time. No doubt that's because I'm a scurvy sea-dog, though.

      Oh, wait... I haven't downloaded anything either. Guess that means that all of the new stuff sucks. Who would have thought it could get so bad that people didn't want it for free?
      • by Pulzar (81031)

        Oh, wait... I haven't downloaded anything either. Guess that means that all of the new stuff sucks. Who would have thought it could get so bad that people didn't want it for free?

        "you and cerberusss" != "people"

        Clearly, there are lots of people who do want this stuff, for free or not.

    • by jandersen (462034)

      Not sure; I think the real deal is to stay low-profile, if you want to do something that is illegal - or even quit doing it. A bit like growing cannabis - if you grow a plant or two in your garden, you will probably get off with a warning, if the police go as far as intervening, which they may well not do, since they have far more important things to do, but if you grow a major crop of the stuff, they will of course come after you, and you will have a longish holiday.

  • Politicians (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Mr2cents (323101) on Friday November 27, 2009 @08:24AM (#30244846)

    Everyone who's been observing politicians knows how to react to such allegations: "I do not remember doing that" (you don't deny, so you can't get caught in a lie).

  • In other words, they can prove that the person uses BitTorrent but not what they're using it for.

  • by coofercat (719737) on Friday November 27, 2009 @08:25AM (#30244858) Homepage Journal

    From the summary, one might draw the conclusion that "be a BT customer, and you're more of a target", but I seem to remember BT being the biggest ISP in the UK by quite a big margin*. Virgin Media (aka. NTL / Telewest) are the second largest*, and so it goes on. So I suppose it's reasonable that BT would account for the majority of the infractions. Conversely, BT have amongst the shittiest networks of all, so you'd imagine that the file sharers weren't actually sharing that much after all. But I suppose that would mean BT won't mind 25,000 people getting cut off, because it'll save them having to upgrade their network (like they say they're doing on the TV ads they're running at the moment).

    So the real take-away here is that if you're at a small ISP, you're less likely to be targeted (at least until the big ones tumble). Meanwhile, the utter incompetence of the BPI and their friends should keep this from being anything more than an annoyance for 30,000 people. If even 5000 of them follow up and challenge their accusers, it'll tie the whole system up for months, if not years.

    The BPI, Mandleson, and their ilk have an idealised view that file sharing should be super-illegal and so almost entirely eradicated. The problem is, best estimates suggest 7 million people in the UK share files*, so even if half give up from fear of prosecution, that's still 3.5 million people they've got to prosecute. I don't imagine there's a lawyer in the UK who's capable of executing that many cases in a decade, let alone simultaneously.

    (* No, I can't substantiate this with a link right now - you know how to use a search engine though, right?)

    • by Xest (935314) on Friday November 27, 2009 @08:42AM (#30244950)

      Yes, which is exactly why they're trying to bypass the courts and make it possible for mere accusation to be enough to be punished.

      • by dgatwood (11270) on Friday November 27, 2009 @08:57AM (#30245044) Journal

        Yes, which is why it is *urgent* that all 30,000 of those people, upon receiving notice, contact a lawyer and file an immediate suit for harassment, thus removing the industry's ability to pick and choose who to actually fight in court. There is strength in numbers.

        Further, it is also essential that those people send letters to their MPs demanding that they fix the law to prevent these abuses. Ignoring the plight of 30,000 organized people would be career suicide.

        • by Rogerborg (306625)

          I can't work out if this is a parody, or whether you're actually serious.

          First, in what possible way, shape, manner or form is accessing publicly available information and then using it to file in court for discovery "harassment"? Cite the English / Scots statute under which you'd file a civil suit.

          Even if you could "organize"(sic) 30,000 people - which you can't - that's 46 people in each of the UK's 646 Parliamentary constituencies. It's an insignificant number.

          Opponents of anti-piracy laws might

        • by Xest (935314)

          I don't disagree.

          The problem is I believe a good portion of those 30,000 (although the BBC article only says 15,000 by the way) will be completely unaware of any campaign or what to do and will just pay up regardless.

          For what it's worth though, the BBC article also states the company ACS:law is under investigation by the law society and some solicitors grouping, I don't know what standing they have, but it may be that they will not be practicing too much longer anyway with any luck. Lawyers and solicitors i

  • BT's Statement (Score:5, Informative)

    by bencoder (1197139) on Friday November 27, 2009 @08:38AM (#30244934)

    I am very impressed by the statement from BT:

    A BT Spokesperson told ISPreview in September:

    "BT and other ISPs agreed to send 1,000 notifications alleging copyright infringement a week for a 12-week trial period, with BT picking up the bill for this activity for our own customers as an act of goodwill. However, it was understood that at the end of this period, we would need to take stock and have further discussions with the rights holders about costs etc.

    During this period, the BPI sent us around 21,000 alleged cases, but less than two-thirds proved to be properly matched to an IP address of a BT customer and not a duplicate, so this could indicate that the true extent of this activity is much lower than the 100,000 number the BPI claim since February. In addition since none of the customers we wrote to during the trial were subsequently taken to court by the BPI, we don't know whether they were actually guilty of infringement."

    I never knew BT could actually sound reasonable. What a shame governments are still left trailing behind on common sense and decency.

  • by xirtam_work (560625) on Friday November 27, 2009 @08:43AM (#30244956)
    Isn't the logical conclusion that if millions of people find a particular type of behaviour acceptable that it should be legalised? Otherwise it's socially unjust. We're not talking about murder or actual *stealing*. We're talking about copyright infringement. If we think it's a bad thing then we should also be allowed to decide how bad the punishment is, whether it's a small fine or a prison sentence.

    I visit the cinema on average once a week and every time the copyright warning is displayed and mentions 10 years in prison for recording a movie in a cinema I cringe. That's more than people get for killing and maiming people, robbing banks and committing other violent crimes. The MP's are in the pockets of the media companies. I'm not talking about small indie film studios, but the distributors and those who own them like Sony, etc. They've been persuaded that if the penalties are high enough people will not perform actions that are trivial to execute and have no visible consequences. This has been shown not to be true time and time again.

    I buy lots of DVDs and DVD boxsets. I probably spent about £500 a year on these. I pay for the cinema one a week. I buy music on iTunes and only search elsewhere online if I can't find what I want. As a kid I pirated every virtual computer game in existence in the 8/16 bit eras. Now I rarely play games, apart from on my iPhone which I pay for. I don't have TV at home, so *sometimes* I get TV shows I like online before going out and buying the full season boxset as soon as it becomes available. I might consider buying them on iTunes or similar if they were available at a reasonable price, but they're not. Most episodes of TV shows cost far more than the equivalent DVD for lower quality and no physical media to keep and store and are non-transferable to other machines, etc. I hope I'm not one of the people discovered in this haul of IP addresses, but I do not download movies, only a little bit of TV. Fingers crossed.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by arethuza (737069)
      Doubleplus ungood thoughtcrime!! Copyright infringement is stealing. Copyright infringement has always been stealing.
    • if millions of people find a particular type of behaviour acceptable that it should be legalised?

      No. To use the often recycled example, the majority of people once thought that slavery was an acceptable practice, but that doesn't mean it should have been. This isn't to say that downloading and slavery are immediately comparable, but rather that a thing isn't necessarily right because "a lot of people are doing/supporting it."

      On the other hand, the huge amount of torrent users shows a fundamental lack of su

    • by Asmor (775910)

      Isn't the logical conclusion that if millions of people find a particular type of behaviour acceptable that it should be legalised? Otherwise it's socially unjust.

      Millions of people found slavery acceptable. That doesn't mean it should ever have been legal.

      Millions of people currently find all sorts of horrible practices acceptable. See, for example, the way women are treated in various parts of the world. That doesn't mean that it should be legal.

      A huge number of people believing something is acceptable does not mean that it is, in fact, acceptable.

      Please note that I'm not making a judgment on the issue of copyright law one way or another; I'm merely pointing out th

  • So not only are BT expensive, slow, with terrible customer service (bar one guy I managed to get hold of when I was stupid enough to be with BT), but they give up their customers, or even just hand them over without being ask to.
    • by arethuza (737069)
      Wow - we must have met the same guy. They do have at least one rather good engineer who fixed our line issue in a rather interesting and resourceful way. However, to protect him I won't give anything away otherwise they would probably use the information to track him down, make him submit to enhanced customer service retraining then shoot him.
  • by mrpacmanjel (38218) on Friday November 27, 2009 @08:56AM (#30245032)

    If you go to the ACS web site thier definition of infringement seems to only apply to P2P traffic and even then seems to be limited to uploads.

    Anyone with half a brain-cell would not use P2P networks for piracy anyway!

    If you are really worried, the article has a link to http://www.beingthreatened.com/ [beingthreatened.com] - they seem to have some genuine advice.

    By the way if you decide to pay the fine, it means you have admitted to guilt and will not be able to contest it or get your money back!
    If you recieve a letter asking for payment under NO circumstances pay it!

    Also, reply to the letter as soon as you can - you have a limited time to respond to it (cannot remember how long).

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That's because that's all that's illegal in the UK - you can read the act..

      http://www.statutelaw.gov.uk/content.aspx?LegType=All+Legislation&searchEnacted=0&extentMatchOnly=0&confersPower=0&blanketAmendment=0&sortAlpha=0&PageNumber=0&NavFrom=0&parentActiveTextDocId=0&activetextdocid=2250425&versionNumber=3

      Downloading for private use is legal.

      Uploading to people (especially outside the country)

      It's something that they keep very, very quiet.

  • Take action (Score:2, Insightful)

    Everyone who thinks this is a bad idea should sign this government petition, get everyone they know to sign the petition, and generally cause a ruckus
    http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/dontdisconnectus/ [number10.gov.uk]

    Then install Tor, because you have to look out for yourself when you don't live in a democracy any more.

    • by IBBoard (1128019)

      Yes, because getting sent a letter saying "we believe you were committing a crime" ends your nation's ability to vote on who controls their nation...

  • by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted@slashd o t .org> on Friday November 27, 2009 @09:59AM (#30245470)

    The customers concerned are 'suspected' of illegally file sharing (P2P) approximately 291 movie titles, they now face threatening demands for money (settlement) or risk the prospect of court action.

    The emphasized part is bullshit fearmongering to get them to pay. Expect the “charges” to be dropped as soon as you refuse and tell them to go fuck themselves. I’ve already seen it twice. You don’t pay, and nothing happens.

    Which is obvious, since they have no proof, no legal anything, and were it not for the changes they pressed into law, they would not even be listened to by the courts.

    If you got such a letter, tell them to go fuck themselves, because they don’t even know what “proof” is in computers, because they know shit about how computers work.

  • Insurance is the key.

    There is no way those 30,000 people can be all sued; if those pool, say 10£ each, that’s 300,000£ available to pay for sollicitors to defend those who are sued.

  • This is to reduce piracy. Seems reasonable.

    "Introduce fixed fines of £750.00 minimum
    Introduce statutory damages of £750.00 as a minimum for each act of copyright infringement (such provision exists presently in the United States);

    ISPs to provide names of internet account holders
    Make all Internet Service Providers produce, on request of a copyright owner or licensee, the identities of the account holders of the internet connection used for illegal file sharing of their copyrighted material. The

  • So you can be fined in the UK just for *suspicion*? And who is sending these letters, the industry of the court? If its the industry as the story suggests, id say there some legal issues with making threats with no proof.

    • There certainly should be some legal issues with it, but from what I gather we've a government completely behind the idea of letting the recording industry police the internet.
  • V for Vendetta (Score:2, Insightful)

    by nanospook (521118)
    The brits need to torrent this movie and then emulate it, it seems like they are slowly working their way into a police state..

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