150 wrongly accused of illegal downloading

It is understood that more than 150 people in the UK have been wrongly accused of illegal file-sharing in new crackdowns, and sent threatening letters demanding an out-of-court settlement of £500, according to the BBC.

Consumer publication "Which?" has been approached by over 150 people who say they have no knowledge of the illegal file-sharing of which they have been accused. ACS:Law, the London-based firm behind the letters said its methods were accurate and that more letters would be sent soon.

"My 78 year-old father yesterday received a letter from ACS Law demanding £500 for a porn file he is alleged to have downloaded," one person told Which? "He doesn't even know what file-sharing or BitTorrent is so has certainly not done this himself or given anyone else permission to use his computer to do such a thing."

Matt Bath, technology editor of Which? said "Innocent consumers are being threatened with legal action for copyright infringements they not only haven't committed, but wouldn't know how to commit." He added that many would "be frightened into paying up rather than facing the stress of a court battle."

He advised those wrongly accused to "rigorously deny it and, if possible, provide physical evidence of where they were when the infringement took place." He also said that they should contact Which? about their case.

Andrew Crossley of ACS:Law said that some cases had already been dropped. He also said that the method used to detect the IP address used was "foolproof".

"We are happy that the information we get is completely accurate," he said. "We explain that an infringement has taken place but it may not be the account holder who has done it."

None of the 10,000 actions sent by the firm have yet to go to court, according to Crossley, but the firm apparently has "no fear of it," with some already going to court. He admitted that the majority of people settle out of court.

However, Matt Bath said that he doubts that the firm could prove beyond doubt that any particular individual was responsible for the illegal downloading.

As reported by the BBC, ACS:Law is currently being investigated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

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63 Comments

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Firms like this are the reason why hard-working producers and artists will never get any sympathy off pirates. If they associate themselves with bullies like this, why should a pirate care if they're hurting people that support a firm which goes around bullying old men? How many more years is it going to take for them to realise that the only way to stop piracy is to stop fighting a losing battle and just engage with the consumer on possible alternatives.

I can't even put in words how much I dislike non-opensource things. Any new Musician, Movie Director or Artist should know that there will always be a pirate, it's a simple fact. For this case to go on any longer would just be such a waste of money you could buy 3X the amount of pornography with it.

ACS Law were brought up in the House of Lords a couple of times recently during the committee stage of the Digital Economy Bill.

My Father-in-law received something like that here in the states. Saying that he had downloaded a few movies on his connection. He does not even own a computer or a router or anything He has a Dial-up data line he uses to send Faxes. Unless he is receiving faxes for every frame of a movie and then a voice-mail with the sound file then it is rather doubtful that he is actually pirating movies.

Seems to me the obvious answer is their connections have been compromised either by having an open wireless connection, or a trojan/botnet using the connection has a host.

Proving it either way could be very hard.

Davenport Lyons is another law company using these scare tactics to make easy money, this has been going on since ~2007 and i don`t think anyone has been to court yet.
If you do receive a letter, right to them asking for the precise details of where and when the alleged offences where committed.
What`s the position regards UK law on downloading? Not sharing ( uploading ) just downloading, if you don`t distribute said file are you still committing a crime?

djdanster said,
Are they also suing for warez? or just bittorrenting?
Same thing, as far as they are concerned.

VTSV said,
PeerBlock anyone?
Cant block everyone, remember its a list someone came up with. For all you know that someone is the law. ;)

epple said,
I thought blackmail was illegal.

It does sound like blackmail but them being a law firm would probably come up with some pafettic excuse.

djdanster said,

It does sound like blackmail but them being a law firm would probably come up with some pafettic excuse.

Pafettic?? - Do you mean Pathetic?

I love the last line in the article:

"As reported by the BBC, ACS:Law is currently being investigated by the Solicitors
Regulation Authority."

lol @ ACS:Law

If I got that letter I would throw it in the bin or shred it, reminds me of MPAA or RIA. I don't pirate my self but the method is just wrong. They would have to show me evidence that I did wrong or I would sue them.

Ahh man makes me worries not about using Bittorrent! Oh well Usenet all the way!! 256bit ssl encrpytion pff I could be downloading anything lol

witalit said,
Ahh man makes me worries not about using Bittorrent! <img src="http://www.neowin.net/forum/style_emoticons/default/sad.gif" alt="" /> Oh well Usenet all the way!! 256bit ssl encrpytion pff I could be downloading anything lol

...unless your ISP is using Deep Packet Inspection ;)

akav0id said,
...unless your ISP is using Deep Packet Inspection ;)
Even if they do, it won't help. The equipment/software will see an encrypted packet, that's all.

djdanster said,

Then that would be highly illegal...


not so sure about that, seems virgin maybe considering it, or rather say it wouldnt be hard to implement http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/8480699.stm

witalit said,
Ahh man makes me worries not about using Bittorrent! Oh well Usenet all the way!! 256bit ssl encrpytion pff I could be downloading anything lol

So how does one set up this 256 bit ssl encryption anyways?

Gotenks98 said,

So how does one set up this 256 bit ssl encryption anyways?
https://www.ipredator.se/ would be your best bet.

But any decent news group server provides 256 bit ssl for free too.

hotdog963al said,
Protip: Stop using P2P.

So, stop using Skype and Spotify, to name just two legal uses for peer to peer technology?

akav0id said,

So, stop using Skype and Spotify, to name just two legal uses for peer to peer technology?

The context of the discussion is "illegal downloading". You're just posting this to be annoying, aren't you?

Northgrove said,
The context of the discussion is "illegal downloading". You're just posting this to be annoying, aren't you?

It's a valid distinction. People often see "peer to peer" as an illegal thing only because of all of the media coverage about illegal file sharing.

M2Ys4U said,

It's a valid distinction. People often see "peer to peer" as an illegal thing only because of all of the media coverage about illegal file sharing.

I use uTorrent only to download Linux and Big Buck Bunny. :D

Edited by Leo Natan, Jan 27 2010, 5:47pm :

Soldiers33 said,
lol, since when is downloading porn illegal?
Since the porn you're downloading it's copyrighted material.

This Crossley guy sounds like the thickest bloke ever to have worked at a law firm.

"Andrew Crossley of ACS:Law said that some cases had already been dropped. He also said that the method used to detect the IP address used was "foolproof"."

Why have you dropped some then crossley, if it's foolproof? And this, talk about contradiction:

"None of the 10,000 actions sent by the firm have yet to go to court, according to Crossley, but the firm apparently has "no fear of it," with some already going to court. He admitted that the majority of people settle out of court."

None have gone to court, but some have already gone to court. Next please.

megastrive said,
This Crossley guy sounds like the thickest bloke ever to have worked at a law firm.

"Andrew Crossley of ACS:Law said that some cases had already been dropped. He also said that the method used to detect the IP address used was "foolproof"."

Why have you dropped some then crossley, if it's foolproof? And this, talk about contradiction:

"None of the 10,000 actions sent by the firm have yet to go to court, according to Crossley, but the firm apparently has "no fear of it," with some already going to court. He admitted that the majority of people settle out of court."

None have gone to court, but some have already gone to court. Next please.

Note: "going to", versus "gone to".

I wonder how many of them were used as proxies in a botnet. It would be difficult to prove intention if they had no knowledge of the activities that were going on.

TheWiseIstari said,
I wonder how many of them were used as proxies in a botnet. It would be difficult to prove intention if they had no knowledge of the activities that were going on.

Why would a botnet be used to download pornographic torrents?

Nihilus said,

Why would a botnet be used to download pornographic torrents?

It wasn't only porn that was illegally downloaded, that was only one mentioned case. Secondly, using a botnet would shield your IP from detection. I guess an anonymous proxy will also have the same effect.

Edited by XamlMonkey, Jan 28 2010, 4:00am : More info

TheWiseIstari said,
It wasn't only porn that was illegally downloaded, that was only one mentioned case. Secondly, using a botnet would shield your IP from detection. I guess an anonymous proxy will also have the same effect.

Realistically I doubt you would ever find anybody using a botnet in order to hide their torrenting habits I just used porn as my main example to emphasise just how odd an idea that is.

As for an anonymous proxy, maybe. But most "anonymous" proxy services still keep logs, and will provide user information to law enforcement/copyright agencies at the first mention of law breaking.

Can you torrent through TOR?

Anarkii said,
They should release their 'foolproof' way of detecting IPs to the general public then.
You can't have the word follproof and IP together to begin with.

Anarkii said,
They should release their 'foolproof' way of detecting IPs to the general public then.

I was once on wikipedia and noticed an alarming error so went to correct it, however my IP was blocked because my IP had been make wrong changes. As I do not have a static IP (most people also do not) someone else at some point could have been using the same IP - an IP isn't even close to proof.

lt8480 said,

I was once on wikipedia and noticed an alarming error so went to correct it, however my IP was blocked because my IP had been make wrong changes. As I do not have a static IP (most people also do not) someone else at some point could have been using the same IP - an IP isn't even close to proof.

IP + Time = Evidence.

ISPs keep a record of what IP address is assigned to what user at what time. Unless they're claiming someone else was using their network/workstation, or that their computer was somehow mysteriously hacked and used to download the file remotely then the IP address is more than "close" to proof.

The morality of the methods used to collect these IP addresses is probably questionable though.

lt8480 said,

As I do not have a static IP (most people also do not) someone else at some point could have been using the same IP - an IP isn't even close to proof.

erm don't know what ISP your with but my socalled non static IP hasn't changed in 4yrs

the only time i can remember getting a new ip everytime i went online was when on Dialup

Good luck with that... i can imagine that law firm sat round a table and tried to think of ways to get money out of people with scare tactics!