Consumer watchdog says Golden Eye's request for court order to get names of alleged illegal file sharers is a money-making exercise
Consumer Focus has been fighting in court today to stop a porn distributor from being able to send demands of £700 to alleged illegal file sharers.
Guy Tritton, barrister for the consumer watchdog, told Justice Arnold that Golden Eye International's request for a Norwich Pharmacal order – so it can force internet service providers to provide customer names and addresses – was just another attempt at speculative invoicing and a money-making exercise; a practice made notorious by disgraced solicitor Andrew Crossley of ACS Law.
The porn distributor has already had problems in the Patents Court over earlier attempts to sue alleged illegal file sharers.
This time the company said it had identified 9,000 IP addresses that have been used to illegally download and upload porn films from Ben Dover Productions and other rights holders.
"We take objection to the excessive damages and extraordinary profits Golden Eye will be getting. If you take £700 by 9,000 that is £6.3m and Golden Eye will be getting 75 per cent of this which amounts to £4.75m. It's not a genuine attempt to get redress for a copyright owner," Tritton said.
He also pointed out the draft letters warned people that Golden Eye would apply to an alleged illegal file sharer's internet service provider (ISP) to ask it to slow down or cut of that person's internet connection – something that Golden Eye cannot legally do.
Another concern raised by Consumer Focus was the validity of the way the IP addresses had been collected. This was done using a torrent client called Transmission and Guy Tritton said there was no way of knowing if the data collected was accurate.
He also called on Golden Eye to give "full and frank disclosure" including how the person tracking the IP addresses was paid.
Putting the case for Golden Eye, barrister Jonathan Cohen denied the request for the order was another round of speculative invoicing.
He added that it was not the court's business how the money was divided providing the copyright holder got redress. He also said that £700 was a fair assessment of the damages for the copyright holders.
Mr Cohen was also dismissive of a suggestion by Tritton that Golden Eye should bring a test case to court. This Tritton suggested could allow a fair amount of damages to be set and the technical validity of IP tracking could be legally scrutinised. But Cohen said test cases were not economically viable for Golden Eye.
Golden Eye now has a week in which to give the court further evidence requested. It is expected Justice Arnold will rule on the Norwich Pharmacal order in about two weeks.
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