[LINK] uh oh - phishing for pirates

Tom Koltai tomk at unwired.com.au
Mon Feb 7 16:26:33 AEDT 2011

> -----Original Message-----
> From: link-bounces at mailman.anu.edu.au 
> [mailto:link-bounces at mailman.anu.edu.au] On Behalf Of Jan Whitaker
> Sent: Monday, 7 February 2011 3:15 PM
> To: link at anu.edu.au
> Subject: [LINK] uh oh - phishing for pirates
> "File-sharing case hunter becomes the hunted
> February 7, 2011 - 12:35PM
> A controversial London-based law firm that sent 
> tens of thousands of letters demanding payment 
> from people it accused of illegal file sharing 
> has dramatically quit its copyright litigations, 
> claiming death threats are causing "immense 
> hassle" to the lead solicitor's family.

Yes it's interesting that in the month of Janusary 2011,
An additional 29,000 file sharing cases cases were added to the legal
Graph at:
Story at: http://www.p2pnet.net/story/48190

It would appear that there would be big money in extortion, oops sorry,
that would be  Demanding Money with Menace, err, sorry, that would be,
Legalised Thuggery.

The following unusual revelation is from the "pen" of Michael Coyle a
commercial UK solicitor and founder of Lawdit Solicitors.

The end of the filesharing campaigns

21 January 2011

The beginning of the end to the filesharing debacle.

I was sitting at home in mid 2008, it was a Saturday afternoon and I was
working. I saw an article on the BBC website which reported the
following :-

"In a landmark case in August, games firm Topware Interactive won more
than &pound16,000 following legal action against Londoner Isabella
Barwinska who shared a copy of the game Dream Pinball 3D"

I thought it odd as I had not heard of this case and for some time I had
followed the filesharing debate. Indeed my Masters was based on
Copyright in the Digital Age (some 12 years ago) and I had thought that
the file sharing would always be a hot potato.

Copyright infringement has been going on since day one. It is a problem
and costs the rights holders and creatives many millions in lost
revenues but file sharing was the real headache and the creatives,
legislators, media, the lawyers could not catch up with not only the
techies but people who could not and would not pay &pound12-25 for
something which they could get for free. Any fight between the
establishment and either of these two groups was not an even match. The
young turks would would win every time. However something had to be done
but what??

The campaign of letter writing started about 2007 but its probably best
to introduce Logistep at this point as it was their software which
allowed the campaign to start. Logistep used its software 'Monitor' and
targeted for example e-Donkey and Gnutella, (and courtesy of

Here is a brief summary of how it worked:-

"The software connects to a p2p server and requests a filename recording
all IP addresses that offer that name. They request to download the file
and if the download is permitted record the following information into a
database. Filename, file size, IP of the distributor, P2P protocol, P2P
application, the time and the username. When this is inserted the
application does a automatic whois and contact could be made if
appropriate to the ISP".

Once the IP address had been identified, the client would have to
identify the individual involved. To do so you would write to the ISP
demanding the name of the person. The ISP would usually respond saying
no, in which case it was necesary to seek an Order from the court
requesting that the ISP release the names in question. The court usually
granted the request. These orders are known as Norwich Pharmacal orders.
The database was compiled and using mail merge, a whole bunch of legal
executuves started to send the letters out while waiting for the lolly
to roll in and in it did.

Davenport Lyons were first instructed by a number of companies and
although usually foreign companies their clients also included UK
software houses ( not the top of the range companies) to music
companies. It wasn't long before most of these clients fell by the way
side and porn popped up its head and became what I presume to be the
largest money spinner.

I did an interview with Radio1's newsbeat and it soon became clear to me
this whole campaign had very little to do with the protecion of the
rights holders or copyright. As one Porn mogul told Radio 1

"It's not my understanding that they ask for anything near that. I think
the amount was $50 I would be very surprised and I wouldn't be happy
because it would mean it was completely misrepresented to me." This
became a common theme. That is the rights holder knew very little about
the licencees modus operandi. This would ultimately be the final nail in
the coffin ie the licensee being put to proof that it is entitled to
bring a claim. It could not and the Judge threw out the claims.

Danveport Lyons soon gave up the ghost and the baton was passed to
Andrew Crossely (almost overnight) they continued with the campaign and
have done so for the past 18 months or so. I understand ACS law are soon
to give up the ghost too and throw in the towel.

Lawdit was also contacted by three foreign companies asking for their
assistance in becoming involved. I declined of course smelling the
potential trouble. Of course it was an attractive proposition. You enter
in to a loose and contrary to the rules 'no win no fee' obtain the list
of names via a court order and send out threatening letters. The key was
pitching the sums just right ie "we demand &pound600" or "we go to court
and costs will escalate to the tens of thousands". Most receipients of
these letters pay up. You go to a solicitor and he will ask for
&pound500 on account of costs. You may have downloaded the item in
question, you may not have. Someone in your house, your son, etc may
have downloaded it. Your name was on the bill, you have been identified,
you are guilty therefore pay. The lawyers sat back and waited for the
money to roll in and I am sure it did. Remember this has got nothing to
do with copyright protection or the rights of the holders. It has
everything to do with bullying and intimidation; the evidence in their
possession proved one thing only; it identifies the bill payer nothing

It is difficult to guess how many letters were sent out over a three
year period but I would presume over a hundred thousand. The Lawyers
have made a fortune but it looks like its all coming to an end as the
Courts have finally woken up and started to throw out the cases which I
hope from and on Monday will mean the end of this whole debacle.

I want to thank those clients and supporters of Lawdit, these include
Tom Alkin of 11 South Square, Deborah Price of Which! magazine, Torrent
Freak and enigmax, Cameron! many good journalists and those supporters
who challenged and pursued the lawyers wherever they went.

A black mark goes to the courts for taking such a long time to wake up
to the injustice of the campaigns, the Information Commissioner who was
frankly a waste of space and for those Solicitors who ought to know
better. Our hourly rates for copyright work are in the region of
&pound200-500+VAT but if you have to resort to this type of work you are
either not very good or greedy but I suspect its a combination of the

The two former partners at Davenport Lyons are now facing serious
allegations over their conduct and presumably ACS law will follow suit.
Now that these two firms are out of the picture it remains to be seen
who will pick up the baton. If they are Solicitors a word of warning,
you cannot run a campaign of intimidation and expect to get away with it
for as long as the other two firms especially when the only evidence in
your possession is the name of the person who pays the bill. If you
decide to start a new campaign then my guess is you will be before the
SRA within 12 months.

Michael Coyle is a commercial solicitor and founder of Lawdit
Solicitors. He can be contacted via his email address
michael.coyle at lawdit.co.uk or through the office line 02380 235979

More information about the Link mailing list