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UK File-Sharing Lawyers ACS:Law Shut Up Shop Ahead of Court 76

Posted by timothy
from the oh-your-honor-don't-you-know-a-joke? dept.
nk497 writes "Controversial legal firm ACS Law and its sole file-sharing client Media CAT have shut down their businesses, days before a ruling is due in a case they brought to the UK Patent Court. ACS Law is infamous for sending out letters to alleged illegal file sharers, demanding payment and threatening law suits. Now that ACS has a case before a judge, it's trying to drop the cases, and has now completely closed its doors. The defendants' lawyers are trying to keep the case going, in order to be able to claim back costs." That sounds right in line with other recent ACS happenings, from getting upbraided by a judge to being blacklisted by an ISP, and even putting the brakes on the file-sharing cases themselves.
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UK File-Sharing Lawyers ACS:Law Shut Up Shop Ahead of Court

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 05, 2011 @06:03AM (#35110248)

    They'll be back under a new name in no time. Immoral scum of the earth. The lawyers concerned should be disbarred, but that won't ever happen, because judges are just lawyers who got a promotion, and they look after their own.

    • by Mathinker (909784) on Saturday February 05, 2011 @06:09AM (#35110266) Journal

      > and they look after their own.

      If they believe the conduct of these lawyers will be publicized enough to reflect on their own reputation or the reputation of the legal system itself, there is a chance they'll sanction / disbar them anyway.

      • I don't know about the 'reputation' of the legal system in the UK, but here in the US it's so tarnished there isn't much to reflect any more. I guess I could say the same thing about most of our press, too.
        • by sortius_nod (1080919) on Saturday February 05, 2011 @09:16AM (#35110744) Homepage

          Unfortunately in the US you can't get much lower than your legal system. In the UK there's still the idea that the law protects citizens, not enables business to harm citizens.

          Even here in Australia the courts are very careful not to ruin the credibility of the courts as this would deteriorate people's perception of law. I have a feeling ACS:Law bit off more than they could chew and realise they'd lose the cases. I just feel sad for the people who freaked out and paid up.

          • by AmiMoJo (196126)

            Our UK courts have a poor reputation, but undeservedly so. Every time any decision is made on the grounds of human rights, EU derived law or to the (slight) benefit of a criminal/bad guy the press goes nuts with it. Tens of thousands of words are spewed forth, but none that explain the decision in any kind of rational way.

        • lawyers, politicians, cops. not much difference: mostly sociopaths with power and a motivation to keep going in that direction no matter what.

          authority figures deserve zero respect in america, so there's no 'reputation' to uphold anymore. and in fact, I bet they're GLAD this sham is over. they can really stretch out and 'exercise' their wills without caring.

          authority and people in position of power have lost any moral high ground. its a very slow road to repair, too, but no one is even ON that road anym

    • by Spad (470073) <slashdot @ s p a d . c o.uk> on Saturday February 05, 2011 @06:28AM (#35110312) Homepage

      I don't know, the judge in this case seemed pretty pissed off at the way ACS:Law have been behaving and their attempts to drop cases and close their business aren't going to help endear them to him.

      Bear in mind that they're also being investigated by pretty much every legal regulatory body and consumer protection organisation in the UK, not just as ACS:Law but also Andrew Crossley himself, so there's still a good chance they won't get away with it.

      • by _Shad0w_ (127912) on Saturday February 05, 2011 @07:55AM (#35110548)

        I'm inclined to agree, the judge in question is not exactly inexperienced and is a specialist in the area. They are in fact "Specialist Circuit Judge, Judge of the Patents County Court and Chairman of the Copyright Tribunal Appointments", they're also a QC.

        I get the feeling, from what I've read, that he is distinctly unimpressed and has little interest in allowing them get out judicial oversight; he's actually quoted as saying, "I want to tell you that I am not happy. 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,"

      • by TheSpoom (715771)

        The problem is that this isn't a legal maneuver to avoid the judge, this is to avoid any judgments against them being collectible (since the business will no longer exist, they'll claim it's bankrupt, and legally separate from the lawyers themselves).

        • they'll claim it's bankrupt, and legally separate from the lawyers themselves),

          How amenable are US courts to the counter-claim that the firm was set up solely for that purpose? I was under the impression that judges could sometimes set aside "legal fiction".

          • by russotto (537200)
            I don't think lawyers are permitted to incorporate in the US. The general partners of a law firm have full liability for all debts of the firm.
        • by AmiMoJo (196126)

          You could still win costs in Small Claims Court quite easily.

      • They are all variously being sued for harassment, so even if they manage to avoid censure by the judge (and there is talk that the defendants may be awarded damages), it's quite possible that even saying "Screw you guys, I'm going home!" will be insufficient. I think a lawsuit against Crossley and his pals and associates has a fairly good chance of succeeding, so I'd say that, for once, the bad guys may actually get what's coming to them.

    • > and they look after their own.

      Gotta be more specific. Trial lawyers love eating their own. Copyright lawyers love the low hanging meat someone is smoking / drying. Patent lawyers love eating things that are at least 10x bigger than themselves. Tax lawyers eat anything they want. Personal injury lawyers love eating the chewed off legs left in traps.

      • by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Saturday February 05, 2011 @09:06AM (#35110710)

        > and they look after their own.

        Gotta be more specific. Trial lawyers love eating their own. Copyright lawyers love the low hanging meat someone is smoking / drying. Patent lawyers love eating things that are at least 10x bigger than themselves. Tax lawyers eat anything they want. Personal injury lawyers love eating the chewed off legs left in traps.

        Gee, thanks. With all this talk about eating it seems I'm hungry again.

    • I'm not so sure. Consumer protection laws are pretty strong in the UK (I think one of the reasons why prices are often higher here than elsewhere) and it's very rare for firms to get away with widespread abuse like this. About the only area where companies manage to scam is in the area of telephone cold-calling (which is usually illegal) and that's only because privacy laws make it very hard to find out who made a call.
    • by 91degrees (207121)
      Well, we can at least see it as a victory. ACS:Law -TNG is probably not going to try such sleazy tactics and neither will any of the other legal firms since they clearly don't work.
    • So can someone "incorporate" a business, pay the $100 yearly fee that your city charges......and then put up a webpage reviewing movies and music, all the while downloading the content via torrents? If you get "caught" with any pirated material you can just close the business and be on with your life. The Corporation did it........not you........

      As long as you didn't make much money you could use their strategy of self protection to protect yourself and your $100 a year licence from the city to pirate all
      • by arivanov (12034)

        Not quite.

        You may end up (at least in the UK) as listed on the prohibition list to form a company. In fact, that is pretty much a standard measure if the judge has decided that you have bent the law in any way to avoid your responsibilities. If the company cannot pay its liabilities (which will be the case here) it is a given that this measure will be used as a part of the bankruptcy proceedings.

        So for starters this means that you will do this only once. After that you will be barred from forming a company

        • by AmiMoJo (196126)

          That is the theory. In reality many people go the bankruptcy route to clear their company's debts. I know people who have done it, they fold the company and get a friend to register a new one with the same address and staff which then buys the assets of the old one. The previous director becomes a top level employee until he can be a director again.

          For that reason suppliers started blacklisting addresses over a decade ago. Since the new company usually has the same office/shop/factory it is safer to do it t

  • I think the strong arm of the Goverment should protect against this, not promote it... Any thoughts?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I haven't read the letters in question (anyone have a link?). But over here in ZA, it might.

      Most magistrates would shout you out of 'their' court if informed that you've been using 'their' court to intimidate people. Sending a "Do as I say or I'll sue you!" can end badly.

  • by eddy (18759) on Saturday February 05, 2011 @06:10AM (#35110272) Homepage Journal

    I see a pattern wrt fraudsters who go out and tell the press that they suddenly fear for their very lives from the people they've previously felt so good about extorting. This guy is doing it, and Darl McBride was doing it. Same pattern. Both use hyperbole without evidence, and they never contact the authorities, just the press. A press who then, disgustingly, report what the scumbags said verbatim without reflection.

    • by Spad (470073) <slashdot @ s p a d . c o.uk> on Saturday February 05, 2011 @06:30AM (#35110318) Homepage

      Well to be fair, who would have thought that making essentially unfounded legal threats against people, trying to extort money from them and threatening to "expose" their alleged "illegal" porn downloading in the hope that they'll choose a cash settlement over having their life ruined would upset people in any way?

      • Well to be fair, who would have thought that making essentially unfounded legal threats against people, trying to extort money from them and threatening to "expose" their alleged "illegal" porn downloading in the hope that they'll choose a cash settlement over having their life ruined would upset people in any way?

        Extortion and blackmail make people cranky? Who knew?? ACS were acting like bullies and now they're running away with their tail between their legs because some people are standing up to them. Karma is a pendulum of vengeance and it's swinging back in ACS's direction. Let's hope they get what's coming to them (legally, of course, because good citizens would never suggest scoundrels meet with violence).

        • by Artifakt (700173)

          It's a basic flaw in the criminal mind. The ones who view their position as lawyers or politicians as a liscence to abuse somebody always seem to think the system they are also abusing will protect them forever. They assume everyone with power plays as dirty as they do, and the people they target can't do anything because they don't have the same level of access to that particular source of power. They don't seem to notice that their are any other sorts of power out there until the mob with pitchforks leads

        • by celle (906675)

          "...good citizens would never suggest scoundrels meet with violence)."

          Yea, good citizens stand, watch, and cheer inwardly(do nothing) as better citizens take action within the law(court, press) or outside the law (assassination, harassment) to end this crap.

      • by Solandri (704621)
        Reminds me of this Monty Python skit [youtube.com].
  • In an effort to avoid extradition for possession of illegally obtained information, ACS Law has abandoned their data warehouse of legal filings.

    HERE - http://cgi.ebay.com/130481622084 [ebay.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 05, 2011 @07:09AM (#35110426)

    Isn't that highly illegal?
    Wouldn't any of us normans end up being screwed so hard for doing stuff like this?
    I hope they get what is coming to them. One hell of a scummy law firm.

    Next up, we get the RIAA and friends.

  • Chase them down without mercy, crush them, destroy their property with fire, raze their houses to the ground, raise piles of wood and combustibles on the grounds where their dwellings were and throw their spouses and offspring upon them, and then set them on fire. Torture them to death, slice their skin off bloody strip by bloody strip and feed them to fire ants. That for a starter, the real fun comes later.
    • by Alex Belits (437) *

      And I thought, my proposal to turn Microsoft employees into a river of blood flowing between hills made of crushed bones, topped by skulls of Gates and Ballmer, was extreme.

      • by JockTroll (996521)
        It's not extreme, it's just... Creative re-decoration supported by a determined stylistic choice.
      • And I thought, my proposal to turn Microsoft employees into a river of blood flowing between hills made of crushed bones, topped by skulls of Gates and Ballmer, was extreme.

        Not extreme, just not environmentally friendly enough to be given the proper consideration.

      • Whilst some _may_ consider the broad-reaching, unrestrained violence somewhat extreme, I'm quite sure that the recipients* of your attention would certainly appreciate the creative flourish of using Gates and Ballmers skulls in your plans^H^H^H^H^H art installation.

        * Not "targets", not "victims"... no, they're "recipients"; and they should be grateful too! ;)
    • Can we all download a free a copy of the movie?

    • Chase them down without mercy, crush them, destroy their property with fire, raze their houses to the ground, raise piles of wood and combustibles on the grounds where their dwellings were and throw their spouses and offspring upon them, and then set them on fire. Torture them to death, slice their skin off bloody strip by bloody strip and feed them to fire ants. That for a starter, the real fun comes later.

      I suppose you could argue that this is performance art or some other expression of artistic or cultural merit. Have you applied for funding from the appropriate UK or EU authorities? They could hardly refuse, considering some of the barbarous outfits their colleagues are propping up with our tax money. Selling the TV rights and after-market DVDs should return a tidy profit.

  • Hey America (Score:2, Interesting)

    by tsj5j (1159013)

    Hey America,

    This is what it means to have an impartial judiciary body.
    Try to buy your Congress and Courts back from the conglomerates, it'd do you a lot of good.

    You might want to start with your supreme court:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/michaeltomasky/2011/jan/27/usdomesticpolicy-clarence-thomas-what [guardian.co.uk]?

  • by BSAtHome (455370) on Saturday February 05, 2011 @09:36AM (#35110844)

    Yes, the new euphemism of the day: Speculative invoicing, a new and innovative form of blackmail.

  • Who is running the defense? I thought a boilerplate defense move was to counter-sue the moment a quarter-serious suit was served.

    The countersuit would be for fraud, or legal expenses or somesuch. Very dependant on the jurisdiction, but always to prevent the aggressors from just dismissing their own claim and retreating to fight another day when the climate was better.

    • In most cases when a complainant attempts to drop the suit, the defendant(s) are only too happy to comply. Countersuits are used as a sort of a MAD-doctrine, raising the risks for the complainant. It might even have happened that way but a judge decided this was such an egregious abuse of the system that he decided to openly ponder not in fact letting Crossley and Co. kill their own lawsuits. At that point, the whole thing just started collapsing. Now they're trying to kill the company itself in the hop

    • by jonbryce (703250)

      That may happen, but fraud cases are not heard in the patent court.

    • by arivanov (12034)

      You are missing the point

      The suits were not quarter-serious.The business model was - threaten to sue, serve papers and move to withdraw if the defendant shows up.

      Works a treat. If the defendant does not show up you in the English court system you win by default (that is not necessarily the case elsewhere). If the defendant shows up you withdraw the suit so you pay the nominal fee for filing, the fee for withdrawal and you turn a tidy profit.

      That is a model which has been used for a long time by various othe

      • by dkf (304284)

        ACS Law tried this for bigger money in proper court. Bad Move(TM). The judge provided them with a very unpleasant surprise by disallowing the withdrawal. If they lose they pay, possibly pay legal expenses for the other party and a precedent is created which blows the model out of the water. Their only retreat route here was to fold the company which is exactly what they did.

        First off, it's the UK so there's a presumption in favour of the losing party "making good" the losses from the court case itself of the winner; costs are normally awarded. (Formally, it's in the power of the judge to decide in equity, so if the other side has outrageous or disproportionate costs, the level of costs awarded might be well short of their actual level, making the victory a distinctly pyrrhic one. This is an area where the UK and the US have diverged.)

        Secondly, folding the company might not sav

        • by jonbryce (703250)

          ACS:Law is a sole trader, not a company, so it can't be folded. The only way out would be for Andrew Crossley to personally file for bankruptcy.

      • by jonbryce (703250)

        If the defendant doesn't show up, you don't win by default. The judge decides the case based only on the claimant's evidence, and they do sometimes still lose, as ACS:Law did in some of these cases.

        In England, the small claims procedure is overseen by district judges, not magistrates. Magistrates hear criminal cases which attract a sentence of less than 6 months in prison.

        The ACS:Law cases were heard in a "proper" court, not because the money involved was large, but because they were copyright cases, whic

  • I'm no lawyer, but having been the officer of two corporations I take a personal interest in how such officers may be exposed to liability through actions against the corporations. To quote the local statute:

    Duties of directors and officers

    142 (1) A director or officer of a company, when exercising the powers and performing the functions of a director or officer of the company, as the case may be, must

    (a) act honestly and in good faith with a view to the best interests of the company,

    (b) exerci

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