[LINK] Come-tuppence for Brit Fortune-Seeker
Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au
Fri Mar 18 16:39:50 EST 2011
Judge considers costs for ACS Law
16 March 2011 Last updated at 23:06 GMT
Controversial law firm ACS Law returned to court on Wednesday as the
cases it brought against alleged file-sharers were officially closed.
Andrew Crossley, the solicitor at the heart of the controversy, was
absent from court but could still face heavy fines.
Judge Birss is considering whether ACS Law should pay the defendants' costs.
Ralli, the law firm which represents five of the accused, is seeking £90,000.
It is unusual for a judge to impose so-called wasted costs and only
happens when legal representatives are considered to have acted
ACS Law was heavily criticised by Judge Birss in an earlier judgement
on the case.
The normal procedures for apportioning costs may not apply, he warned
at Wednesday's hearing.
"If ever there was a case with conduct out of the norm it was this
one," he said.
Mr Crossley has faced a barrage of media scrutiny since he began
sending letters to alleged file-sharers in June 2009.
At least 10,000 people are believed to have been contacted by his law firm.
Consumer watchdog Which? highlighted several cases where people
claimed to have been wrongly accused.
Critics increasingly accused Mr Crossley of pursuing a letter-writing
campaign against alleged net pirates as a way of making money -
so-called speculative invoicing - with no intention of ever bringing
them to court.
People receiving letters were offered the chance to pay a fine of
around £500 per infringement.
This view was given validity when Mr Crossley brought 27 cases to
court but sought to discontinue them at the last minute.
A frustrated Judge Birss refused to allow the cases to be dropped and
instead put the methods of ACS Law under the spotlight.
He accused the firm of seeking "to avoid judicial scrutiny".
At a hearing in January, Mr Crossley dramatically withdrew from the
cases, saying he no longer wanted to pursue illegal file-sharers
because of the "immense hassle" it was causing him and his family.
His barrister Paul Parker argued in Wednesday's court hearing that he
should not be liable for costs.
He said that Mr Crossley's file-sharing case load had operated at a
loss, with Mr Crossley claiming to have spent £750,000 on pursuing
net pirates while making £300,000 from people paying fines.
Guy Tritton, barrister for Ralli, countered that the way ACS Law had
conducted the cases amounted to "an abuse of process" and drew
parallels with Charles Dickens's famous courtroom drama Bleak House.
"Dickens's view that the one great business of British law is to make
money for itself is apposite in this case. The primary purpose of the
letters was to make money for ACS Law," he said.
As well as proving to be a fascinating courtroom drama, the case has
wider implications as governments around the world grapple with how
to deal with the issue of copyright infringement.
The cases have brought into question whether an IP address - the
numerical code which identifies the network connection a person is
using - can be used as evidence in court.
The UK's Digital Economy Act, set up in part to deal with illegal
downloading, is facing its own judicial review next week, with ISPs
BT and TalkTalk claiming that the measures introduced to chase
illegal file-sharers "simply won't work".
A group of MPs will hear evidence next week as it takes its own look
at the Act.
Meanwhile Mr Crossley is under investigation by the Solicitors
The Information Commissioner is also considering whether ACS Law
should be fined for a data breach, which saw the details of the
people who had received letters and the pornographic films they are
accused of downloading exposed online.
Law firm Ralli is considering pursuing a group action for harassment
against ACS Law.
Roger Clarke http://www.rogerclarke.com/
Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd 78 Sidaway St, Chapman ACT 2611 AUSTRALIA
Tel: +61 2 6288 1472, and 6288 6916
mailto:Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au http://www.xamax.com.au/
Visiting Professor in the Cyberspace Law & Policy Centre Uni of NSW
Visiting Professor in Computer Science Australian National University
More information about the Link