House of Lords: Record Companies have been harassing innocent users

February 3, 2010 · Posted in Digital Economy Bill, House of Lords 

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Speaking in the House of Lords, Lord Lucas took aim at ACS:Law solicitors, a firm that has been used by record companies in Britain to intimidate file-sharers, and that has apparently cause an enormous number of complaints to the Solicitors Regulation Authority. Of particular interest is this extract:

If people fall foul of this Bill, they will have a couple of warning letters, but after that they will get a typical ACS:Law Solicitors standard letter saying, “Pay us £500 or we will take you to court”. If they do not pay the £500, they will end up in court, there will be technical evidence against them, and they will have no ability to provide a technical defence. That is the difficulty that people faced with ACS:Law Solicitors have at the moment. There is this inequality of arms. They are in a civil court, with a 50:50 balance-of-probability judgment, and must contemplate risking thousands of pounds in mounting a defence when it is not easy to do that.

This is a recognition of one of the fundamental problems with a bill like the DEB: the consumer-grade networking equipment that is currently available and that has been being given out by ISPs in the past few years does not allow users to defend themselves.

Say, for example, that you get a letter accusing you of violating copyright and demanding that you stop. You know that you haven’t been, and you think that it was probably the tech-savvy kid from next-door breaking into your wireless. What can you do? On most consumer-grade equipment: nothing. The wireless routers that have been distributed by ISPs do not support strong enough encryption to keep him out, nor do they keep detailed enough logs to vindicate yourself. To put it simply: once the accusation has been made you cannot escape it, since the tools are not available to you to prove your innocence.

The result of this is, as Lord Lucas points out, that the record companies can accuse absolutely anyone they feel like, and the person will have no choice but to pay the fine they demand – it is legally sanctioned blackmail:

In a civil procedure on a technical matter, it amounts to blackmail; the cost of defending one of these things is reckoned to be £10,000. You can get away with asking for £500 or £1,000 and be paid on most occasions without any effort having to be made to really establish guilt. It is straightforward legal blackmail.


Comments

21 Responses to “House of Lords: Record Companies have been harassing innocent users”

  1. [...] a member of the UK House of Lords, has accused record companies of blackmailing internet users by accusing people of copyright infringement who have no way to defend themselves. ‘You can get away with asking for £500 or £1,000 and be paid on most occasions [...]

  2. Poop Stinks on February 5th, 2010 7:30 am

    Giving in to blackmail only encourages it maybe people should take the offensive when faced with an outragious claim? Take the record companies to court for blackmail before they blackmail you..

  3. jd on February 5th, 2010 7:32 am

    And hey you have the record companies blackmail attempt as proof. Blackmail is illegal if you don’t know.

  4. Libelbunny on February 5th, 2010 9:36 am

    Simple question: if you are sure you are in the clear I think it could maybe be interesting to let it happen and then take them on libel. IANAL, but I *know* I’m not guilty so I would go all the way if it wasn’t for my experience with UK Courts where I’ve come to the conclusion that a shocking percentage judges must be either exceptionally gullible, incompetent or blind drunk when in court.

    I have spent years pursuing a criminal, and the stuff he got away with in court was unbelievable.

  5. [...] name they have chosen accurately describes the extent of their digital knowledge.   They posted blog complaining about record companies “blackmailing” users for digital piracy by asking [...]

  6. [...] Read on… [...]

  7. Craig Lambert on February 5th, 2010 1:48 pm

    “Say, for example, that you get a letter accusing you of violating copyright and demanding that you stop. You know that you haven’t been, and you think that it was probably the tech-savvy kid from next-door breaking into your wireless. What can you do? On most consumer-grade equipment: nothing. The wireless routers that have been distributed by ISPs do not support strong enough encryption to keep him out, nor do they keep detailed enough logs to vindicate yourself. To put it simply: once the accusation has been made you cannot escape it, since the tools are not available to you to prove your innocence.”

    You get a couple of warning letters beforehand, so surely you would have your local expert come out and ensure that you have a wireless router that supports strong encryption. I can’t imagine that most routers are shipping with WEP-only these days. WPA2 and a complex password is going to put 99.99% of hackers off.

    Probably the more interesting interesting argument against the DEB is that it only helps copyright holders with enough resources to obtain evidence about infringement.

  8. antonio on February 5th, 2010 1:54 pm

    Movies it’s the same, there’s a company in germany called Constantin movies who are blackmailing users into paying 900 euros for supposed 20 minutes of uploading one of their minutes 5 months ago. And 600 out of the 900 are to pay the lawyers.

  9. [...] House of Lords: Record Companies have been harassing innocent users : DigitalWrong. Breve estratto della dichiarazione di Lord Lucas: Se le persone entrano in collisione con questa legge, avranno un paio di lettere di avvertimento, ma subito dopo riceveranno la tipica lettera degli avvocati di ACS:LAW che dice: “Pagateci 500 £ o vi porteremo in tribunale”. Se non pagheranno le 500 €, saranno portati in tribunale, saranno portate prove tecniche contro di loro ed essi non avranno alcuna possibilità di fornire una difesa tecnica. Questa è la difficoltà in cui si trovano le persone di fronte ai legali di ACS:Law. C’è questa disparità di armi. Essi sono in un tribunale civile, con un rapporto di 50:50 di probabilità di giudizio e devono contemplare il rischio di migliaia di sterline per preparare una difesa, quando non è facile farlo. … Nell’ambito di un procedimento civile su una questione tecnica, l’importo rappresenta un ricatto; il costo per difendersi si calcola attorno alle £ 10.000. Si può ottenere di chiudere chiedendo 500 o 1.000 £ e queste verranno pagate il più delle volte senza alcuno sforzo di dover realmente stabilire la colpa. E ’semplicemente un ricatto legale. [...]

  10. [...] En la noticia se detalla cómo un empleado de la Universidad de Georgia utilizó una acusación de infracción de copyright para extorsionar a un estudiante, demandándole una suma de dinero a cambio de no cursar la infracción. En realidad, se trata exactamente del procedimiento de matonismo judicial que la RIAA utiliza habitualmente en los Estados Unidos: denunciar a una serie de personas, y demandar sumas de dinero a cambio de no acudir a un proceso que, en caso de celebrarse, y considerando el coste de una buena defensa en los Estados Unidos, redundaría previsiblemente en un plazo largo y sumas de dinero importantes. En el Reino Unido, esta misma práctica ha sido objeto ya de denuncia en la Cámara de los Lores. [...]

  11. La extorsión del copyright | RSS Tecnología on February 5th, 2010 4:28 pm

    [...] En la noticia se detalla cómo un empleado de la Universidad de Georgia utilizó una acusación de infracción de copyright para extorsionar a un estudiante, demandándole una suma de dinero a cambio de no cursar la infracción. En realidad, se trata exactamente del procedimiento de matonismo judicial que la RIAA utiliza habitualmente en los Estados Unidos: denunciar a una serie de personas, y demandar sumas de dinero a cambio de no acudir a un proceso que, en caso de celebrarse, y considerando el coste de una buena defensa en los Estados Unidos, redundaría previsiblemente en un plazo largo y sumas de dinero importantes. En el Reino Unido, esta misma práctica ha sido objeto ya de denuncia en la Cámara de los Lores. [...]

  12. Andreas K on February 5th, 2010 7:42 pm

    Well, most routers today support WPA and more.

    Now, the problem is threefold:

    -) unsafe configurations (e.g. my router by default does not setup any encryption, fresh from our local ex-monopoly)
    -) protocol safety, even WPA and friends are potentially crackable, it just takes longer and more work.
    -) and some consumer electronics like the game consoles are known to support only WEP.

    So what am I supposed to do if I want to do online gaming with my console?

  13. [...] House of Lords: Record Companies have been harassing innocent users : DigitalWrong [...]

  14. Craig Lambert on February 8th, 2010 11:22 am

    > -) “unsafe configurations (e.g. my router by default does not setup any encryption, fresh from our local ex-monopoly)”

    Like I said, you pay someone to come out if you know jot about securing yourself

    >-) “protocol safety, even WPA and friends are potentially crackable, it just takes longer and more work”

    Yep, hence the need for complex passwords. There are some advanced attacks on WPA (relating to protocol weakness), but, like I said, stops 99.99% of all hackers.

    >-) “and some consumer electronics like the game consoles are known to support only WEP.”

    > “So what am I supposed to do if I want to do online gaming with my console?”

    Firmware updates around the corner? A long Ethernet cable?

  15. La extorsión del copyright « sobre tecnologia on February 8th, 2010 3:47 pm

    [...] En la noticia se detalla cómo un empleado de la Universidad de Georgia utilizó una acusación de infracción de copyright para extorsionar a un estudiante, demandándole una suma de dinero a cambio de no cursar la infracción. En realidad, se trata exactamente del procedimiento de matonismo judicial que la RIAA utiliza habitualmente en los Estados Unidos: denunciar a una serie de personas, y demandar sumas de dinero a cambio de no acudir a un proceso que, en caso de celebrarse, y considerando el coste de una buena defensa en los Estados Unidos, redundaría previsiblemente en un plazo largo y sumas de dinero importantes. En el Reino Unido, esta misma práctica ha sido objeto ya de denuncia en la Cámara de los Lores. [...]

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  17. [...] in the House of Lords, Lord Lucas took aim at ACS:Law solicitors, a firm that has been used by record companies in Britain to intimidate file-sharers, and that has [...]

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