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ACS: Law Withdraws Pursuing Illegal File-Sharers 105

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the sad-about-that dept.
Necroloth writes "As mentioned previously on Slashdot, ACS: Law has been sending out letters to thousands of alleged file-sharers on behalf on its client, MediaCAT. However, solicitor Andrew Crossley has now ceased all work on such cases, citing criminal attacks and death threats. Judge Birss doesn't seem to be taken by this, and comments, 'I am getting the impression with every twist and turn since I started looking at these cases that there is a desire to avoid any judicial scrutiny.' Judge Birss is expected to deliver his judgment on the case later in the week... perhaps all is not lost in the British judicial system."
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ACS: Law Withdraws Pursuing Illegal File-Sharers

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Translation: ACS:Law sensed they were about to lose, and are trying to withdraw to avoid actually having a precedent set which could hurt their MafiAA-type overlords.

    • Re:Translation (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MightyMartian (840721) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @01:21PM (#34996310) Journal

      I don't think it was losing cases that scared them so much is actually having cases appear in court at all. There seems to have been no small risk of some sort of censure out of all of this.

      • I don't think it was losing cases that scared them so much is actually having cases appear in court at all. There seems to have been no small risk of some sort of censure out of all of this.

        What astounds me is that somewhere along the line this group of, um, "educated professionals" (if I may be so bold) sat down at a conference table, discussed this "tactic" and decided that it would be a good idea. Surely this has to taint their judgement in any future client's eyes, no?

        • Well, the firm is probably tainted, but like any scamster, you ride the horse until it drops dead, then you get on another horse.

      • There are no statutory damages in the UK so they would have to prove actual damages, which would be in the region of the cost of a DVD since their evidence is only of one infringement. But that assumes the IP address is accepted as satisfactory. Moreover the leaked ACS law emails included advice to Crossley to this effect so the plan was never to take this stuff to court
    • by h00manist (800926)

      Translation: ACS:Law sensed they were about to lose, and are trying to withdraw to avoid actually having a precedent set which could hurt their MafiAA-type overlords.

      Thanks for that. The debate would have been much less useful without clear translation. I wish there were "translation" like this for things more often and more easily, often it's near impossible to figure out what the hell is behind a particular story...

    • by 91degrees (207121)
      They don't care too much about that. They'll lose a potential cash cow. They've had to abandon that anyway. It's not like they're going to have any loyalty to the media cartels.

      It looks like ACS:Law may well be considered to be behaving unethically. This seems to actually be a serious matter in English law.
      • It looks like ACS:Law may well be considered to be behaving unethically. This seems to actually be a serious matter in English law.

        Perhaps they should consider a career change and join the ranks of British politicians.

    • by NekSnappa (803141)
      Since it seems this was in Britain, precedent might have been part of it.
      There it is also a loser pays system. So they could have ended up owing money on any and all lost cases.
    • It's not just that they are going to lose (which they are - actually, they've already lost every case that they let go before a judge, even the undefended ones), but that they don't want their methods or claims to be examined.

      It seems that there are barely any stages of this business that they haven't (or possibly "he hasn't") screwed up. Just off the top of my head:

      • The claimed to be a "copyright protection society" which they are definitely not, and which the judge described as "misleading"
      • They claimed to
  • It's good news (Score:4, Interesting)

    by initialE (758110) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @12:48PM (#34995702)

    Any lawsuit filed, even one you can successfully defend against, is a pain to deal with and causes emotional stress. It's good to see practices like these become less popular.

    • by h00manist (800926)

      Any lawsuit filed, even one you can successfully defend against, is a pain to deal with and causes emotional stress. It's good to see practices like these become less popular.

      Emotional stress, money stress, and a hell of a lot more.

    • Re:It's good news (Score:5, Informative)

      by Andy_R (114137) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @12:59PM (#34995902) Homepage Journal

      Part of the problem in this particular case was that these cases couldn't be defended against, since the accusers didn't actually take the cases to court, preferring instead to send more threats, or just move on to the next potential victim leaving the threat hanging. The hearing in the article was the first time a judge ever saw a contested ACS:law filesharing case, and even then ACS tried (unsuccessfully) to drop all the cases before the the court date.

      • Re:It's good news (Score:5, Informative)

        by Xest (935314) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @03:02PM (#34997888)

        "The hearing in the article was the first time a judge ever saw a contested ACS:law filesharing case, and even then ACS tried (unsuccessfully) to drop all the cases before the the court date."

        Indeed, at every step of the way ACS:Law has been trying to scare people into just giving them money, it was becoming common knowledge that their demands had no teeth and that they weren't really taking people to court, and so ACS:Law decided to up the game and see if actual real substantial threats of court action would turn that tide. What ACS:Law didn't count on was people not actually bowing down and settling, they didn't count on people actually trying to fight their case in court, and this is why they are now shitting bricks.

        It's a high stakes bit of brinkmanship - one side would be set to pay hefty fees if they lose, the other would see their entire business model destroyed. ACS:Law appears to have folded first, and lost the game.

        • by AmiMoJo (196126)

          What we need are two new laws.

          1. Make all invoices have to have the word "INVOICE" printed in large letters at the top, followed by "This document is an invoice and does not legally require payment" or similar.

          2. Make threats of legal action legally binding with penalties if not followed though. Even vague crap like "legal documents may be being prepared" or "this case may be passed to our solicitors" should count. Anything that gives the recipient reasonable cause to believe that the sender intends legal a

  • by Even on Slashdot FOE (1870208) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @12:49PM (#34995720)

    Logic? In the justice system? Please let this continue!

    • In the justice system?

      No, in the legal system. Any similarities between the two are entirely coincidental.

  • by mcgrew (92797) * on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @12:49PM (#34995732) Homepage Journal

    A lawyer has dramatically withdrawn from pursuing alleged illegal file-sharers in the middle of a court case he brought.

    The patent court in London is currently scrutinising 26 cases brought by ACS: Law on behalf of its client MediaCAT.

    The law firm had sent thousands of letters to alleged file-sharers.

    Those who received such letters may pursue ACS: Law for harrassment, said law firm Ralli, which represents some of the defendants.

    In a statement read to the court, solicitor Andrew Crossley said he had now ceased all such work.

    He cited criminal attacks and bomb threats as reasons.

    Yeah, death threats. Sure, buddy *snicker*

    • Yarr, they're pirates after all! The murderous scum of the sea!

    • Pretty sad when people will actually scream "terrorist" as a fake distraction. It shows how much credibility the term has left in it, every politician and their mother has screamed "terrorists!" for one advantage or another. He should be forced to back up that assertion or be accused of perjury or whatever.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by oodaloop (1229816)

        Pretty sad when people will actually scream "terrorist" as a fake distraction.

        You're the only one who used the word "terrorist". Ironic much?

    • by couchslug (175151) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @01:28PM (#34996400)

      "Yeah, death threats. Sure, buddy *snicker* "

      Too bad none were carried out.

      • by gknoy (899301)

        I'd much prefer to see them live with the consequences of their actions, as it then gets to set some legal precedents.

      • Anonymous would've gone ahead... but their mum's wouldn't let them out!
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Honestly, this gets modded Insightful? Wishing death upon someone who's legal actions you find distasteful isn't exactly Insightful...

    • by h00manist (800926)

      Those who received such letters may pursue ACS: Law for harrassment, said law firm Ralli, which represents some of the defendants.

      that's some nice news and consolation for whoever was indeed subject to harrassment.

    • by Kiralan (765796) *
      To Andrew: Let's see the evidence of 'attacks' and 'bomb threats'. If you have evidence of same,why aren't you turning that over to your justice system for action, rather than bailing on a client? You would probably have better results than you could expect from ACS:Law.
    • by didroe84 (1324187)
      To be fair, they were the target of 4chan so death threats are par for the course.
    • by anyGould (1295481)

      Given the general attitude of the judge, that fellow is very lucky that he wasn't asked to provide documentation regarding the "criminal attacks" and "bomb threats"...

  • by h00manist (800926) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @12:49PM (#34995744) Journal
    It wouldn't be the first or last of "brilliant" lawyers to find ways to abuse the spirit of the law while following the letter of the law. Defamation, copyright, patent, trademark, licenses, brands, contracts, a number of things are created which ultimately are applied in such a manner as to become a legalized form of censorship.
    • by Sockatume (732728) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @01:12PM (#34996162)

      The judge in the case appears to have strong feelings on that matter, and has yet to have his final word on the case. He refused to let ACS:Law withdraw their prosecution earlier because he felt the heinous mess needed to see a courtroom, so things might get more interesting.

      • by h00manist (800926)

        so things might get more interesting.

        Yay!

      • by 19061969 (939279)
        So, assuming the case goes through and the alleged sharers win, would the judge be likely to award costs against ACS:Law? That would be awesome.
        • by Spad (470073)

          It's not a matter of them "winning" per se as the claimants don't even have the legal right to sue as neither they nor MediaCAT are the rights-holders, or acting on behalf of the rights-holders, of the properties that are alleged to have been infringed.

          At this point, with all the legal bodies that are investigating his firm, Andrew Crossley will be lucky to walk away from all of this without being disbarred.

  • FTA :

    In September, ACS: Law was the victim of a cyber attack and it accidentally exposed thousands of its e-mails online when its website went live again. These e-mails detailed all the people it was pursuing and the pornographic films they were accused of downloading for free.

    They pursued porn filesharers? Surely that's about 75% of people who use the internet?

    • by Jason Levine (196982) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @02:15PM (#34997196)

      Kind of makes me wonder if the porn accusations were all smoke and mirrors in a barely-legal extortion attempt. As in "Our data shows you downloading 'Naked Underage Midgets 3'. You wouldn't want your friends and family to find out you've been sued for downloading this movie, would you? Just pay our settlement fee and this can go away quietly."

  • It's interesting that the lawyers and people who have controlled our world are brushing up against a reality where their targets/victims can find out who they are and retaliate. It has become absurdly easy to track them, and respond in kind.

    Wikileaks is part of this process. The stage has been set for a turning point in human society. Governments and the Powers-that-Be will fight the process, but they will be overcome, at last, by Justice.

    • by erroneus (253617)

      It's only a turning point if enough people care to LEARN and also to TAKE ACTION. For masses of people to learn something important would not be a miracle, but is highly unlikely given that most of the education consumed by the masses come across "the media." And for the masses to take action? Once again, not a miracle but highly unlikely. The masses are not anonymous and they know it all too well. The individual members of the masses mostly have too much to lose to risk taking any significant action.

      T

      • by delinear (991444)
        This case illustrates it's sufficient for a clued-up subset of the masses to learn. The main issue in going after filesharers is that your dragnet is likely to scoop up a lot of people who are a) net savvy, b) are pretty clued-up on IP and filesharing or c) both. In this case they obviously annoyed enough of group c to scare them off - it's not so one-way when you're not specifically going after single mothers who don't know about filesharing or octogenarians who don't even own a computer.
    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      The stage has been set for a turning point in human society. Governments and the Powers-that-Be will fight the process, but they will be overcome, at last, by Justice.

      Yeah, kid, I thought that when I was young, too. Didn't happen, even though my generation made a few inroads like ending the Vietnam war, getting equal rights for minorities, getting environmental legislation passed, etc. I don't see any real activism at all with your generation; you kids seem to not give a shit about anything but what the cel

      • by Mysteray (713473)
        Probably your parents thought you didn't care about America too.
      • by Locke2005 (849178)
        You damn smelly hippie! Why don't you cut your hair and get a job!

        Sincerely,
        Your Dad
        • by Bucc5062 (856482)

          Dear Dad,

          I did, and I regret to inform you that because of shrinking profits and budget constraints, your position in the company has been eliminated. Sadly your pension fund was slashed last year so there will be no compensation or retirement options, but HR will be glad to help you with all the paperwork.

          We're looking forward to seeing you at Thanksgiving.

          Take care,

          Your Son
          (CEO, Uncaring Corporation)

          (baby boomers changed the world...for themselves)

        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          Dude, I retire next year! Now let the nice nurse show you where your room is again.

      • by MoonBuggy (611105)

        I don't see any real activism at all with your generation; you kids seem to not give a shit about anything but what the celebrities are doing and what the next shiny toy will be.

        How much was that serious and how much was it playing the 'curmudgeonly old man' character? If you did mean it genuinely, I can assure you that we decry the actions of these morons in our peer group just as you do. That said, was there ever really a time in history when a significant proportion (perhaps even the majority) of a given generation weren't morons (or, if you're feeling charitable, 'people disinclined to question the status quo, or to try to improve the world around them')? The old 'bread and cir

        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          How much was that serious and how much was it playing the 'curmudgeonly old man' character?

          A little of both. All youth seem to do today is bitch on the internet. We actually showed up at places and raised hell (see the wikipedia entry on the Kent State Massacre). Where are the sit ins and protests against the corporitization of America? Against the Patriot Act? Against the wars? Against Obama's selling out to the insurance industry when we were supposed to bring health care to the 21st century like the rest

          • by MoonBuggy (611105)

            I spend much more time in the UK than the US, so I don't have examples to hand from the latter, but there are definitely some from the former, and I'd say the two cultures shares more similarities than differences. Iraq war protests were pretty pervasive, culminating in somewhere around a million people [bbc.co.uk] marching in London. Admittedly they've died down, but I think it's fair to say that after the government ignored the people and went to war anyway, the questions changed - many people (myself included) foug

            • by mcgrew (92797) *

              Your young folks across the pond are a hell of a lot better than here (especially the young French, who seem to riot a lot if the newspapers are to be believed). And, I was actually more cynical when I was young than I am now. At least, I think I was.

    • Governments and the Powers-that-Be will fight the process, but they will be overcome, at last, by Justice.

      read a lot of stories, do you? movies? heroic themes where good wins over evil?

      that's so cute. I remember being young and impressionable, once, too.

      • I remember being young and impressionable, once, too.

        Cynicism is the goopy shit left over when idealism curdles.

    • by Hatta (162192)

      Not likely. Any threat against the power structure that runs society can be easily twisted into a threat against society itself. Those in power then use that to get the people to put up with even more oppressive rules.

    • by dangitman (862676)

      The stage has been set for a turning point in human society. Governments and the Powers-that-Be will fight the process, but they will be overcome, at last, by Justice.

      Good luck with that.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    must be terrible when your client threatens to kill you after making a hash of the job

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @01:12PM (#34996164)

    Filesharing is terrorism!

    Huh? Well, we needed a new strawman. The old one [wired.com] has been reduced to a source for caricature and ridicule.

    • by delinear (991444)
      There's nothing new about "filesharing is terrorism" - I remember seeing warnings on DVDs several years ago (mid 00's ish) claiming that the funds from piracy directly fed into organised crime and terrorist organisations (even though the vast majority of "piracy" by that point was in the form of downloads). They've just changed the focus from the people distributing it to the people receiving it.
      • I remember seeing warnings on DVDs several years ago (mid 00's ish) claiming that the funds from piracy directly fed into organised crime and terrorist organisations (even though the vast majority of "piracy" by that point was in the form of downloads).

        So, if rather than buy a pirated movie, I were to go download it, I would be depriving terrorists and organized crime money? Sounds like a solid argument for filesharing to me!

        ROBIN, TO THE BAT-TORRENTS!
        • Not to mention that most CDs these days are manufactured in countries that are either possibly or blatantly obviously working against the interests of the United States.

          Be a patriot! Don't buy Red! Download your music!

  • If they are not going to be prosecuted, and therefore not found guilty, no one should be labelling these people or their actions as "illegal". You are only illegal if a court finds you breaking the law. Accusations don't make anything be illegal. Let's stop playing into this scare game.

    • by Dunbal (464142) * on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @01:19PM (#34996276)

      But the scare game is what it has already been about for almost 50 years! I remember when videos used to ship with an "FBI WARNING" that scared people (except when you actually read it, all it said was that Interpol had met and decided that copyright infringement was against (at the time) CIVIL law - what Interpol or the FBI were doing discussing civil issues in the first place is another matter). Boo.

      • I remember when videos used to ship with an "FBI WARNING" that scared people (except when you actually read it,

        I think this FBI warning is still present on DVDs. I haven't purchased a DVD in the last 1-2 years, true, but I have not heard that the practice had ceased in the meantime. But the more interesting question is: why on Earth does the FBI allow for their "brand" to be abused in such a way? Maybe I should put on my door something to the effect "If you try to break in, the KGB will poison you with Polonium".

  • by fantomas (94850) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @01:18PM (#34996262)

    A totally criminal scam if I ever heard of one. File sharers were threatened with court, and told if they 'settled out of court', paid up 500 quid, then the case would be dropped against them. Meanwhile the media in the UK and USA are full of stories of people being sued for millions by music companies etc, and everybody knows it costs thousands of pounds to hire a lawyer. So what are you going to do if you don't know your rights and you're not particularly assertive? Probably get frightened and pay up 500 pounds which is a lot of money but most people can find it somehow. I can imagine a number of people thinking that's their cheapest and easiest way to end the nightmare.

    A pure criminal exercise, no more than blackmail and extortion I'd say. The company has sat down and said "well I reckon if we pull this stunt 10% (or whatever) people will just get scared and pay up, let's send out a few thousand letters and watch the money roll in, and ignore anybody who fights back, just move on to the next poor victim". Easy money. Just a step up from a gang of muggers sitting outside a bar on a Saturday night waiting for easy targets to come past...

    As for the legal firm getting death threats? well put up or shut up. Here in the UK that's taken very seriously. If they have received death threats, well turn over the evidence to the police and the police will duly investigate and arrest anybody who has being making these threats. And if the law firm is lying about this, well making false claims like these are also considered serious offenses. If there have been such threats, I would have thought a law firm before anybody else would know their rights and call in the police. I am not convinced...

    • You missed the point where he was targeting porn fileshareres, so presumably he was attempting to target people who would settle rather than go in to court to explain why they downloaded "Daddy's Little Girl #6" from a Torrent.
      • by coolmadsi (823103)

        You missed the point where he was targeting porn fileshareres, so presumably he was attempting to target people who would settle rather than go in to court to explain why they downloaded "Daddy's Little Girl #6" from a Torrent.

        I don't think they were targeting porn file sharers exclusively. Also some music files (I can't remember what at the moment though).

      • I don't know if you've been overseas but porn doesn't have the stigma it has here in the states. In the UK [wikipedia.org] hardcore porn magazines are sold wherever newspapers and magazines are sold. They have the usual protective covers on them and are only sold to adults. Hardcore porn videos are sold in licensed shops. I was in Germany a few years back and after 10pm, there's some very graphic stuff on regular TV. The Europeans seem to treat it just like they treat violent depictions: It's restricted for certain a
        • by MoonBuggy (611105)

          You're giving a little too much credit there. The UK may not be as puritanical as the States, but there are still plenty of people who wouldn't want their particular porn-viewing choices made public (or to be publicly linked to porn titles that they didn't actually even download, for that matter). I'm imagining the porn tactic worked particularly well against older, married types - higher disposable income, more likely to feel that sex carries some negative stigma, more likely to raise uncomfortable questio

    • by Hatta (162192)

      A totally criminal scam if I ever heard of one. File sharers were threatened with court, and told if they 'settled out of court', paid up 500 quid, then the case would be dropped against them.

      Here in America, we call that "plea bargaining". Hey, freedom ain't free!

  • by JustOK (667959)

    ACS: law was owned by one guy, and pwned by another.

  • Crossley asserts: "The lurkers support us in email".
  • intimidation... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hAckz0r (989977) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @01:44PM (#34996692)
    Intimidation is a two edged sword. You can't expect to try to ruin someone's financial life and not expect some kind of retaliation in return. When things are completely out of balance you will see more of one than the other, and there are certainly more poor people being sued than those rich ones doing the suing. Those that are more inclined to file share for financial reasons have little to loose in the high stakes legal arena, and they are therefore much more prone to engaging in such anti-social behaviour. Its human nature to want to fight back, and if all you have is email and a phone then that is what you will use. They are after all emotionally compromised. If you are going to try and sue a Jane Doe, don't expect her to just sit back and take it. For these people sitting back and 'enjoying it' is never going to happen, even if they know they should not do what they are doing. The threat just justifies their cause in their own mind and makes them want to fight back even more, by file sharing more. Emotionally speaking, intimidation by threat is a loosing move.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by mcgrew (92797) *

      Those that are more inclined to file share for financial reasons have little to loose in the high stakes legal arena... Emotionally speaking, intimidation by threat is a loosing move.

      I don't think you said what you intended to say.

      a : to let loose (see 1loose): release b : to free from restraint
      2: to make loose : untie
      3: to cast loose : detach
      4: to let fly : discharge
      5: to make less rigid, tight, or strict : relax
      intransitive verb
      : to let fly a missile (as an arrow) : fire
      See loose defined for Engl

  • Not enough. Nothing less than the cold reality of death will do for the ACS:Law thugs. Their skin shall be ripped to shreds, their bones broken, their sinews snapped and their eyes gouged. Bloody intestines shall burst from their sliced bellies and their quivering remains shall be defecated upon and set on fire.
  • It get's worse (Score:5, Informative)

    by Locke2005 (849178) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @02:38PM (#34997556)
    The new company pursuing the claims, GCB, is a dormant company that was "borrowed" from a friend by none other than... Andrew Crossley. It's real owner, David Fisher, now disavows any connection and advises anyone who received a demand letter from GCB to ignore it. (See the techdirt article for more info.) So while publicly proclaiming he was "no longer persuing" file downloader, Crossley was in fact still persuing them, but trying to obfuscate who was actually responsible.
  • ACS = ....
    American Chemical Society
    American Cancer Society (I immediately think of these first two because I'm a member of one and a follower of the other...)
    American Constitution Society (wow, i.e. we can play Mad Libs here - American Cxxxxxx Society)
    American College of Surgeons
    Association of Caribbean States (hah - now I'm not an Americentric...)
    American Colleges of the South
    Adobe Creative Suite (would make sense in a story about piracy)
    Applied/Academic/Accounting/Agile/Awesome Computer Systems (this patt

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