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The Courts United Kingdom

UK Copyright Blackmailers Rebuked By Court 64

Posted by timothy
from the bad-naughty-evil-acs-law dept.
Sockatume writes "The first eight ACS:Law cases have reached the courts, and have already fallen on their face. The law firm hit the headlines when it demanded money from tens of thousands of Britons for illegal file sharing, threatening legal action. It seems its bark was worse than its legal bite, as default judgments have been refused in six of the cases for such egregious errors as attempting to make a claim when one is not even the copyright holder. Two of the cases were found in default as the defendants had failed to respond, but not on the merits of ACS:Law's case."
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UK Copyright Blackmailers Rebuked By Court

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  • The lawyers themselves may however have some answering to do before their professional bodies.
  • by dugeen (1224138) on Friday December 10, 2010 @06:14AM (#34512388) Journal
    I thought their argument was flawed but I didn't realise there were quite so many holes in it, it's a pity though that some of the people targeted will have settled out of court already.
    • I thought their argument was flawed but I didn't realise there were quite so many holes in it, it's a pity though that some of the people targeted will have settled out of court already.

      It's good to see that at least some default judgement requests are failing -- maybe we are seeing a tidal shift in purse-seine litigation?

      Naw, too much to hope for.

  • All 8 were denied (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ommerson (1485487) on Friday December 10, 2010 @06:27AM (#34512428)
    The judge in fact refused all 8 requests for default. Of the eight, 3 had in fact filed defences, and there was no evidence of service in 3 more. The remaining two were technically in default, but the judge found the case lacked any legal merit due to the plaintiff not actually being the rights-holder or exclusive licensee, and therefore incapable of bringing a copyright infringement action. It looks as if ACS:Law's business model of speculative invoicing is holed below the waterline and sinking rapidly. The question I have is whether launching actions with such fundamental errors in law and procedure amounts to mal-practice? It certainly wouldn't be the first allegation of this type for ACS:Law.
  • "Two of the cases were found in default as the defendants had failed to respond, but not on the merits of ACS:Law's case."

    So a lesson for us all there. If some random law firm threatens to sue you for something you haven't done, apparently you MUST respond or you're guilty.

    • Re:Default (Score:5, Informative)

      by Shimbo (100005) on Friday December 10, 2010 @07:05AM (#34512612)

      If some random law firm threatens to sue you for something you haven't done, apparently you MUST respond or you're guilty.

      Wrong, three separate ways:

      1. No, you should put in a defence when actually served with court papers.
      2. You may get a case ruled against you if you don't bother to put in a defence but that didn't happen here.
      3. It's a civil case, so guilty does not apply.

    • Re:Default (Score:5, Informative)

      by AlecC (512609) <aleccawley@gmail.com> on Friday December 10, 2010 @07:10AM (#34512636)

      Well, yes. If you could get away with things by simply not responding when sued, the guilty would use that as way of avoiding judgment. Of course, when it comes to court and the plaintiff requests judgment in default, he mist convince the judge that there was a real case to answer - which failed this time, which is why the judge correctly dismissed the claims against those technically in default. You are not guilty without evidence, but if the plaintiff presents reasonable evidence and you do not refute it, the judge has no choice but to accept the plaintiffs case.

    • by samjam (256347)

      Just make sure you know who it is you need to respond to.

      I understood that the obligation was to respond to the court and not to ACS (in this case).

    • >>>apparently you MUST respond or you're guilty.

      Dear MAFIAA:

      Fuck off. Take your extortion letter ("Give us $5000 or else"), shape it into a dildo, and shove it into a lower orifice.

      Sincerely,
      Commodore 64 Fan

    • Re:Default (Score:5, Informative)

      by ledow (319597) on Friday December 10, 2010 @08:25AM (#34513006) Homepage

      Er... and what's shocking about that? It's called a *default* judgement (hence, the judgement that would be entered unless you changed the circumstances). Literally one line of a piece of paper or turning up at court when notified would immediately change the *default* judgement into "innocent until proven guilty" (if applicable). If someone does actually serve a legal paper against you then you are a true idiot to just ignore it - it's like ignoring a parking fine or a tax bill, it will NOT improve the situation. At the most basic level, it's also the rudest thing you can do - you're basically telling the *COURT* to fuck off, not the person filing and even if that person is an idiot, you've just insulted the court system that decides what happens to you. That's THE single most stupid thing you can ever do. "Contempt of court" is an offence in itself, remember, not that you'd get that far for this particular incident.

      Plus, it takes a matter of minutes to write any letter that basically says "I don't understand what I'm accused of", "Fine, I'll see you in court", or "I didn't do it", or even "Contact my lawyer, here's his number". If someone files a legal case against you - RESPOND. You don't need to say "I did it" or "I didn't do it" (as the other people who did respond almost certainly didn't admit either way), you just need to tell the court "I heard. I'll be cooperating with the legal system." Whether the case itself is a heap of shit of not is another matter and really needs a properly worded reply to avoid further insult. That's why at *that* point, even a LAWYER receiving that threat would consult another independent lawyer. Simple things like failing to get the correct form in on time can result in a default judgement against you and, yes, you probably can appeal that in some fashion but it just shows the court that you're going to be troublesome and time-wasting before you even start.

      Even without a lawyer's help, a politely worded letter would work wonders in your favour:

      Dear Mr Whatever,

      I understand from your previous correspondence that you intend to initiate court action against me for the alleged act of XXX. Without admitting or denying these allegations, I am informing you that I will participate fully in any properly-filed case that you bring against me in these matters, however my initial reaction is that they may be indiscriminately targeted at the innocent and guilty alike based on the media coverage surrounding your company and its recent actions in similar cases against innocent people. I am currently reviewing my legal options but I consider any action out-of-court to be ill-advised and without merit. If you wish to proceed with legal action, my legal representative is XXX.

      Yours,

      Mr Someone

      I *guarantee* that ACS:Law got hundreds of those letters and none of those people ever ended up anywhere near a court, or needed to. You didn't even need to file a defence in court to "win" - just turn up and cooperate, a defence is for when the allegations are clear and you've had time to respond, hire representation, gather evidence and it's actually *going* to court. A friend of mine got one of those letters that demanded cash and a signed statement that they wouldn't infringe again on the basis of zero evidence. My wife was legally-trained. They wrote a letter (not a legal one, just a letter that basically said "Nope... if you think I did wrong, take me to court."). They *NEVER* heard from them again. It was all an elaborate bluff but there's always ONE idiot who ignores the letters, misses the court date, gets a default judgement against them and then people like ACS:Law can say "We won a case already, wasn't even contested, the court gave us our costs and the money we demanded from the other side, now we'll go pick on someone else with a case history on our side too!".

      If you receive any legal correspondence whatsoever, write back or get your lawyer to. Hell write back and say "I received your letter, I'm consulting my lawyer, deal

      • by shentino (1139071)

        Simple.

        Legally DDoS someone in 25 different countries and have all the court dates the same?

  • by dbIII (701233) on Friday December 10, 2010 @07:30AM (#34512712)

    for such egregious errors as attempting to make a claim when one is not even the copyright holder

    That sounds like the crime of fraud to me.

    • by 91degrees (207121)
      It does. But you actually have to prove fraud, and it's extremely difficult. Can you prove beyond reasonable doubt that they didn't know they weren't authorised, and that they claimed to be purely for their own enrichment rather than for the benefit of their client?
  • Disbarring (Score:3, Interesting)

    by L473ncy (987793) on Friday December 10, 2010 @08:13AM (#34512924)
    From what I understand, it's not actually doing wrong that will get you disbarred (yes if you kill someone you'll be disbarred) but rather the appearance of doing wrong that may put the profession into bad light (ie. unethical things that put the professions integrity into question). I have not evidence to substantiate this since it was a college (Law) prof who told the class this but he was a practicing lawyer for a number of years before going back to teaching.
  • Accusing a law firm of blackmail. I'm pretty sure they call that "libel" both in the US and the UK.

    Don't get me wrong, I agree with you! That's my opinion, however, not the title of a story on an IT news website.
  • how long before they force you in to arbitration?

    can they do that anyways by say once you down load something (don't need any real poof) then you must go to arbitration?

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      Arbitration can only happen when there's a contract between two parties to mandate it. And the kind of mandatory, binding arbitration you refer to is practically a nonentity in the UK.

      • by Sockatume (732728)

        (Well, not only in a contract situation, but in the scenario you're imagining.)

      • by Rogerborg (306625)
        Tell me about it. I've seen people being "awarded" payouts by Employment Tribunals, then the employers saying "Well, that's nice, now we'll see you in Grown Up Court. Our lawyers are on salary - how about yours?"
    • by jonbryce (703250)

      No, because in England, you can't agree to exclude the jurisdiction of the court.

  • by sharkey (16670)

    ...attempting to make a claim when one is not even the copyright holder.

    Is that piracy? Or something else?

    • by davecb (6526)

      Courts are reluctant to punish people who bring suits and lose, lest they make people fear to go to court.

      Obtaining money by the threat of legal action based on a false and fraudulent pretense, however, may be something a court, or more likely the appropriate law society, would act on.

      IMHO, the critical point is the degree to which the claim can be demonstrated to be fraudulent. An oldish definition is, in part, "An intentional perversion of truth for the purpose of inducing another in reliance upon

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