It's been on ongoing story and has produced the first ruling on file-sharing in the UK where Judge Birss said back in December 2010, "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". Now the lawyer for ACS: Law, the firm that has issued thousands of letters demanding damages on behalf of its client MediaCAT is withdrawing from the 27 cases currently in front of the same county court.
In a statement, MediaCAT's barrister, Tim Ludbrook read a statement from solicitor Andrew Crossley that said "I have ceased my work...I have been subject to criminal attack. My e-mails have been hacked. I have had death threats and bomb threats." according to a report by the BBC. "It has caused immense hassle to me and my family," he added.
ACS: Law was the firm at the centre of a hacking scandal back on September 2010 when thousands of its emails were exposed showing the people who were being accused of downloading pornographic movies for free. Consumer groups have said that ACS: Law were sending thousands of letters to innocent people and some ISPs refused to hand over details of their customers.
Judge Birss, the same judge who ruled on the case in December said "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." This follows accusations that ACS: Law have been seeking to extract money from people without ever having any intention of taking them to court. These accusations intensified when it was discovered that ACS: Law was pocketing 65% of the money collected.
Mr Ludbrook said "It has always been my intention to litigate and, but for the fact that I have ceased this work, my intention was to litigate forcefully in these 27 cases." It has emerged however that another law firm, GCB Ltd has now begun sending similar letters, including to one person who had received a letter from ACS: Law saying they would be taking no further action against them.
According to the BBC...
Judge Birss said he was considering banning MediaCAT from sending any more such letters until the issues raised by the cases had been resolved. The judge was keen to find out what the relationship was between GCB and ACS: Law, something Mr Crossley sought to clarify in his statement. He said that he had no connection with GCB Ltd beyond the fact that the founders of the firm had previously been employed at ACS: Law.
Barrister Guy Tritton [acting on behalf of the accused] questioned the nature of the letters sent by ACS: Law, asking why it described MediaCAT as a "copyright protection society," - a title that he said was "misleading".
This has raised serious questions about whether an IP address could be used to positively identify a person who has downloaded illegal content. Many have said that lawyers are attempting to exploit the legal system and the lack of technical knowledge of judges. Judge Birss is expected to deliver his judgement on the case later this week and we'll bring you the story as it happens.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.