UK Judge Deals Blow to File-Sharing Lawyers

Mike Halsey MVP
Dec 14, 2010
Updated • Nov 30, 2012

British law firm ACS Law has already come under fire this year after hackers broke into their computer system and stole copies of documentation of letters and demands for recompense to people who had been accused by them of illegal file-sharing.

Now the firm has been dealt a further blow with a judge rejecting their attempts to have the cases settled without trial, according to PC Pro.

ACS Law said that the defendants had operated, "at the time of the identified infringement an Internet connection router that was not secured either adequately or at all, so as to enable another to carry out an act of copyright infringement of the claimant's Work via the Internet connection of the defendant."

This was in breach of the 1988 Copyright Designs and Patents Act according to the firm, but Judge Birss had a different opinion and instead ruled that "The plea that 'allowing' others to infringe is itself an act restricted by s16 (1)(a) and 17 of the 1988 Act is simply wrong."

While this itself does not set a precedent as the case was only heard in a county court it is very important and could have repercussions around the world if upheld in higher courts.  The assumption that people can and are aware of the security requirements for wi-fi wireless networks, and that they must be aiding and abetting illegal file-sharers simply by not having a password on their router is a weak one and it's good that it's been tested in this way.

ACS Law have been abusing the popularity of home wireless routers to press for the assumption that everyone who ownes one therefore understands it and knows exactly how to use it.

The judge summed up by stating that "The term used by those sections of the Act is 'authorising' and the difference may be very important if the allegation is about unauthorised use of an Internet router by third parties."

We'll let you know how this story unfolds in 2011 at gHacks.


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  1. Guy on the Couch said on December 15, 2010 at 11:44 pm

    What’s the judge’s next move – introduce them to the bailiff, mary jane?

  2. Yoav said on December 14, 2010 at 11:56 am

    Not to mention that even with a password, how difficult would be it be for my neighbors to break into my router?

  3. Jack said on December 14, 2010 at 11:35 am

    The judge didn’t go half far enough. ACS Law is far too typical of the way law is being practised in the UK today, in all sorts of areas, and it’s time the legal professions as a whole attended to their standards, which currently fall somewhere below estate agents and tele-sales people.

    Whatever ACS Law accuse their victims of, it certainly can never be morally or legally worse than the kind of amoral legal mugging that ACS indulge in. They’re ambulance chasers and It’s time they were out of the legal business once and for all.

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