The UK has seen one round of speculative invoicing descend into farce, with the solicitor involved being suspended from practicing for two years, but it appears another firm is embarking down the same path, in an attempt to protect the copyright of an adult film maker.
Dinah Greek of Computer Active has highlighted the latest case, which has Golden Eye International applying for a Norwich Pharmacal order to reveal the identity of the people behind 9,000 IP addresses, where the IP addresses all relate to O2 and Be customers.
Consumer Focus the consumer watchdog has a barrister Guy Tritton fighting the consumers corner, stating that this case is just another speculative invoicing and money-making scheme. It is expected that letters to the account holders will ask for £700 to make the problem go away, and of this £700 75% will go to Golden Eye International, with the remaining 25% going to Ben Dover Productions and other rights holders. When you consider they are trying to get information for up to 9,000 accounts, the represents a potential income to Golden Eye of some £4.75m.
Apparently the IP address information has been collated using the Transmission BT client, and one must question the validity of this particularly as it appears by reading the Golden Eye website, that the Chartered Physicist who is a 'checked computer expert' was also used by previous well known names such as ACS:Law and Davenport Lyons. Though it is not clear if this is just old information on the website, as one site suggests the expert's company has been dissolved.
Golden Eye International from reading its website, appears to exist solely for copyright protection purposes, and the landing page for site carries a warning that if you have visited their website you are likely to have infringed their rights already. This seems an odd statement to make on the main page of a site, particularly as there is no indication of the rights that they actually hold. A little research reveals that Simon James Honey who is behind Ben Dover Productions is also a director of Golden Eye International.
It is another two weeks before we can expect a ruling on the order by Justice Arnold, but if you do receive a letter we would advise seeking legal advice immediately before making any contact by web, mail or telephone with the people who sent the letter.
The nature of speculative invoicing is revealed by comments from Golden Eye's barrister that test cases to prove the validity of IP tracking would not be economically viable.
Cases like this generally generate outrage, and given that the letters will be alleging people have downloaded pornography, this outrage may result in distress for families or embarrassment for those in shared households. One must wonder if this is why adult content features so heavily in these cases, as people may try to settle the case quietly so that embarrassment does not ensue.
Copyright infringement is a civil offence, only becoming more serious if you profit financially from it, and if people who have downloaded content that was then simply automatically shared by their torrent client are to be fined £700 for something that actually cost £5 or less to buy legitimately then most people would agree this was disproportionate. Perhaps the best way for general public to show their dislike of speculative invoicing is to not consume the content at all, i.e. don't pay for it, and don't download it via torrents or file lockers.