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The Courts The Internet United Kingdom News

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

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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  • Re:Flamebait (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 27, 2009 @09:15AM (#30244806)

    Is it 1984 on that motherfucking island of yours yet?

    It's worse than 1984! It's 2009!!! (It would have been Orwell's sequel)

  • Re:Flamebait (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 27, 2009 @09:21AM (#30244826)

    They could hide from the telescreens and meet in the countryside for illicit encounters in the book, you'd never get away with that in 2009.

  • Politicians (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Mr2cents ( 323101 ) on Friday November 27, 2009 @09:24AM (#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).

  • by coofercat ( 719737 ) on Friday November 27, 2009 @09:25AM (#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 CharlyFoxtrot ( 1607527 ) on Friday November 27, 2009 @09:26AM (#30244870)

    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 Sockatume ( 732728 ) on Friday November 27, 2009 @09:30AM (#30244890)

    No, it's the real 1980s' vision of the future, only instead of OCP, it's the media industry that's gone on a power-mad rampage.

  • by Xest ( 935314 ) on Friday November 27, 2009 @09:42AM (#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 xirtam_work ( 560625 ) on Friday November 27, 2009 @09:43AM (#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:Better in Italy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by damburger ( 981828 ) on Friday November 27, 2009 @09:47AM (#30244972)
    Left wing government? No wonder you were modded flamebait. The government in the UK is right-wing, despite the Labour name. And protecting the profits of big business whilst suppressing the civil liberties of ordinary people is a clearly right-wing policy.
  • Take action (Score:2, Insightful)

    by CookedGryphon ( 1096241 ) on Friday November 27, 2009 @10:09AM (#30245102)

    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 Anonymous Coward on Friday November 27, 2009 @10:12AM (#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:No, you won't (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ragzouken ( 943900 ) on Friday November 27, 2009 @10:32AM (#30245268)

    Just so you know, a linebreak does not constitute an adequate chance to respond to your first question. Do you understand?

    I'll take that as a yes.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 27, 2009 @10:41AM (#30245328)

    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 leave you with a quickly growing stack of movies that you haven't seen. You haven't heard all the good jokes in the world and you never will. There are pictures that are world famous that you'll never know exist, many created by people who didn't have copyright protection, much less the obscene appropriation of public domain that passes as copyright today. To postulate that piracy will end content production is ridiculous. "Home taping kills music." Yeah, it sure did, didn't it?

  • Re:Flamebait (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 27, 2009 @10:42AM (#30245336)

    That's why this is not about companies looking for IPs in P2P networks.

    It's about a court actually granting discovery on 30.000 IP addresses, a political elite valuing perceived security over freedom and a populace that doesn't appear to care whatsoever, welcoming it even.

    It's certainly not 1984, but equally abominable nonetheless.

  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Friday November 27, 2009 @11:15AM (#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:Flamebait (Score:3, Insightful)

    by realityimpaired ( 1668397 ) on Friday November 27, 2009 @11:20AM (#30245654)

    Most people posting about 1984 and making "Orwellian" references are talking about the Ingsoc nanny state. It doesn't matter that the book isn't actually about about that nanny state, or that it's just a plot device for the story/message that Orwell was trying to convey: what matters is that people understand what you're talking about when you make the reference. Specifically, a totalitarian society that constantly monitors its people, that assumes that everybody outside of the Party is a criminal, and that is trying to dumb down the populace in order to prevent them from thinking for themselves.

    Considering the number of CCTV cameras in the UK, and the level of personal privacy that exists in the country, the suggestion that people on the Internet are being assumed to be criminals, and are being handed over to the media companies without the chance to defend themselves, really does conjure up images of Oceania, don't you think?

  • V for Vendetta (Score:2, Insightful)

    by nanospook ( 521118 ) on Friday November 27, 2009 @01:58PM (#30247096)
    The brits need to torrent this movie and then emulate it, it seems like they are slowly working their way into a police state..
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 27, 2009 @03:10PM (#30247798)

    Have fun watching FBI warnings and unskippable advertisements. There are (and will always be) people who don't recognize that they're being violated. I prefer putting some work into infrastructure I own and control, rather than being treated like a region-coded source of revenue.

  • Re:Better in Italy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Trogre ( 513942 ) on Friday November 27, 2009 @07:45PM (#30250720) Homepage

    Stop. Please, just... stop.

"If you lived today as if it were your last, you'd buy up a box of rockets and fire them all off, wouldn't you?" -- Garrison Keillor