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The Almighty Buck The Courts United Kingdom

UK Anti-Piracy Firm E-mails Reveal Cavalier Attitude Toward Legal Threats 200

Khyber writes "A recent DDoS attack against a UK-based anti-pirating firm, ACS:Law, has resulted in a large backup archive of the server contents being made available for download, [and this archive] is now being hosted by the Pirate Bay. Within this archive are e-mails from Andrew Crossley basically admitting that he is running a scam job, sending out thousands of frivolous legal threats on the premise that a percentage pay up immediately to avoid legal hassles."
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UK Anti-Piracy Firm E-mails Reveal Cavalier Attitude Toward Legal Threats

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  • Wow. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Cryolithic ( 563545 ) on Saturday September 25, 2010 @08:21AM (#33696026)
    Is this surprising at all? I don't think anyone would be shocked at this...
  • Duh (Score:4, Interesting)

    by QuantumG ( 50515 ) * <> on Saturday September 25, 2010 @08:26AM (#33696050) Homepage Journal

    I've gotten, umm.. a dozen or so cease and desist letters over the years.. my response to every single one of them has been to ignore it. No response. They never follow up. Why would they? It's a fishing game, the only way they can get you on the hook is if you take the bait.

  • Re:Wow. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gilesjuk ( 604902 ) <> on Saturday September 25, 2010 @08:27AM (#33696054)

    What is surprising is that it seems that there is little or no involvement of the police or law enforcement agencies in this.

    What appears to have happened is private companies have been granted permission to sample Internet traffic and this information is then made available to these dubious legal firms who just spam people with demands for payment.

  • Pointless. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ledow ( 319597 ) on Saturday September 25, 2010 @08:29AM (#33696064) Homepage

    And probably all rendered inadmissible in court because they were obtained illegally. Way to immunise a guy against an awful lot of evidence.

    I know someone who was threatened by ACS:Law. As with all things serious, we researched it and discovered it was likely a scam, and this was WAY before they were news-worthy. The threat was ignored, except for a polite response, and nothing else happened. If you pay up, you're a moron. If you think this will stop such companies, there are no shortage of other morons willing to pick up such easy work, and they don't even need to be anywhere near a lawyer themselves.

    DDOS, hacking, etc. isn't doing anything but legitimising their actions should they go to the mainstream media. Just ignoring their threats and/or inviting them to court, as any sensible person would do (and have done - ACS:Law are under investigation by various high-level UK legal authorities for legal irregularities) does infinitely more.

    The guys an scamming idiot, but it's like a playground fight here - I can guess how much a moron he is without having to break into his personal emails and just because they might reveal he is an asshole doesn't mean that you've "won" anything against anti-piracy lawsuits or even against legal threats with zero evidence. All you've done is become nothing more than a publicity generator. How long before I see on the news: "Pirates hack into law-firm's servers, distribute private emails, law-firm says it's represents the mindset of the people they are chasing".

  • by bobstay ( 137547 ) on Saturday September 25, 2010 @08:31AM (#33696070) Homepage

    From TFA: "Email evidence that ACS:Law deliberately does not target two UK ISPs, TalkTalk and Virgin Media"

    That's interesting. I'm with Virgin so that's nice to know. I wonder why these two?

    Perhaps they don't cave as easily as the others.

  • Can you hear that? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Torinir ( 870836 ) <torinir@g m a i l .com> on Saturday September 25, 2010 @08:36AM (#33696094) Homepage Journal
    It's the sound of the copyright lobby having another heart attack.

    When will the governments of the world finally say "Enough is enough" to these clowns?

    It's not like all this litigation and threats are profitable or anything. I believe /. had an article on the fact that RIAA spent $16m to recover $391,000 in 2008. It was worse in 2007, when they spent $21m and only recovered $516,000. I know it's been all over the place at various points. Add in the frivolous lawsuits, DDoS attacks and harassment of uninvolved individuals, and the whole copyright lobby looks like an organized crime syndicate.
  • Re:Pointless. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 25, 2010 @08:36AM (#33696106)

    That's actually an excellent question - is a file that was visible in the root directory of a web server for download, illegally obtained?

  • Re:Pointless. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 25, 2010 @08:41AM (#33696136)

    Umm, I'm not a lawyer, but my understanding is that under UK law (as opposed to US law) evidence that has appeared as a result of an illegal act, especially if the illegal act was by a third party unconnected to any investigation/civil action began, is not blanket rendered inadmissible in court. (That's not to argue about whether it should be or not, just what the law is.)

  • Re:Pointless. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by James_Duncan8181 ( 588316 ) on Saturday September 25, 2010 @09:03AM (#33696218) Homepage
    In UK law, this would be admissible in the court. Even if the police break the law obtaining evidence, it is still admissible. The punishment for the methods used is, unlike the US, a separate issue from admissibility.
  • Re:Common strategy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Inda ( 580031 ) <> on Saturday September 25, 2010 @09:05AM (#33696226) Journal
    The same happens with debt collection agencies. They buy huge lists of names and send threatening letters to them all, multiple times. Some people pay, some ignore, some fight.

    I keep getting chased for debts that aren't mine. The lists get sold, I get a letter. The agencies have never replied to a CCA letter (a legal requesting for information). Bunch of criminal chancers.
  • Re:Common strategy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Andy Smith ( 55346 ) on Saturday September 25, 2010 @09:36AM (#33696354)

    You get 3 points on your licence in any case

    Sorry, yes, you're right. My only brush with the law was driving on a poorly-marked bus lane, which you don't get points for. Speeding offences do have mandatory points, yes.

    An interesting point I've heard about speed cameras: To get permission for a speed camera placement, the police must show that a _majority_ of people speed at that location. How absurd is that? Surely if a majority of people consider it safe to speed there, it probably is. The police should be putting speed cameras where the dangerous _minority_ of people speed.

    There was a big initiative launched here (Scottish Highlands) a few weeks ago, with the police clamping down on speeding motorists. The police took news photographers and TV camera crews out to village streets and roads near schools, showing officers with hand-held speed cameras. When was the last time you ever saw a police officer with a speed camera outside a school? Round here you only ever see them at the end of dual carriageways and overtaking lanes. They'd prefer to issue hundreds of fines to motorists driving safely over the 60mph limit, rather than catch the genuinely dangerous motorists doing 40mph past a school.

    It sickens me that people are being killed by dangerous drivers while the police busy themselves handing out fines to safe drivers.

  • Re:Pointless. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by NotBornYesterday ( 1093817 ) on Saturday September 25, 2010 @09:45AM (#33696394) Journal
    I wonder if this would meet the threshold for "making available" that RIAA et al base their lawsuits on.
  • Re:has resulted? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Saturday September 25, 2010 @10:03AM (#33696482) Journal
    Not sure about the legality of their scam, but I do wonder if making this stuff available constitutes not taking sufficient care to preserve confidentiality and is enough for disbarment.
  • Re:has resulted? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by meerling ( 1487879 ) on Saturday September 25, 2010 @01:03PM (#33697436)
    Are you sure their 'idiot admin' is really an idiot? Maybe (s)he is a sympathetic techie that took a calculated risk based on confidence of the masses and plausible deniability.

    Yeah, I know the odds aren't great for that, but it could be possible.
    (Just imagine if you had a conscience and were the admin for those scum and a chance like that came up. What would you do?)
  • Re:Duh (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 25, 2010 @01:12PM (#33697486)

    It's actually important not to respond to such letters, because if they do take you to court a response will serve as evidence that you received the letter. If you don't respond then the only way they can prove you received the letter ( or that they even sent it ) is if they send it recommended so you have to sign for it.

    If they do send it recommended to you ( unlikely ) , then the best course of action is probably to send a letter which politely says that you can't see that their accusations are accurate, and suggest they double check them. Don't outright claim the accusations are false, because that could get you in trouble if they can show you are lying. If you simply state politely that you don't see how their accusations are true, and suggest they double check their information, then in order to bust you for lying they would not only have to prove the accusations are correct, but also that you were aware of it. Depending on the circumstances the latter is a lot harder to do.

    Basically don't respond if they don't force you to sign for it, and if you feel you have to respond admit nothing, don't make any strong claims that they can claim are lies. Even if the claims you make are in fact true, they could still accuse you of lying unless you can back it up. Never act in an impolite manner, and don't tell them anything that could be seen as arrogant or respectless if they decide to use it as evidence in court.

    Finally, if it seems likely they will take you to court, seek legal advice. Law is complicated and it's easy to get burned. Don't go toe to toe with them without help because unless you've actually studied law and know what you're doing, chances are their lawyers are better at it than you.

  • by Calydor ( 739835 ) on Saturday September 25, 2010 @01:52PM (#33697692)
    Actually I do get it, that was my exact point. If someone's making a threat it doesn't really matter whether it's coercion or extortion as you have no way of knowing if they're going to follow through with the threat.
  • Re:Wow. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Khyber ( 864651 ) <> on Saturday September 25, 2010 @05:04PM (#33698958) Homepage Journal

    What, you didn't bother downloading the TORRENT and READING THE EMAILS FOR YOURSELF?

    I'm on ~3200th e-mail right now. This man is GOING DOWN HARD.

  • Re:Pointless. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Nyder ( 754090 ) on Saturday September 25, 2010 @07:51PM (#33700066) Journal

    This evidence was obtained illegally, however it's enough that it could start an investigation where they could then gain the same, or more evidence via legal means (seized computers, lawful investigation with write blockers)

    No, it wasn't obtained illegally.

    They put the backup of their website on their frontpage.

    They made it available. Did they mean to? No. But they did.

    Nothing illegal about downloading it.

The last thing one knows in constructing a work is what to put first. -- Blaise Pascal