File sharing court order hearing adjourned until 2011
Another law firm Gallant Macmillan acting on behalf of the record label Ministry of Sound was at London's High Court on Monday seeking to obtain court order revealing the names and addresses of users from Plusnet, Sky, Be.
The case was adjourned to be heard again on 11th January 2011, with BT lawyers requesting to see details of the security system where customer details that would be handed over would be stored. This is in response to the news last week of the exposure of customer information via leaks from ACS:Law.
There is some degree of irony in BT's lawyers seeking an adjournment on the security front, since it was discovered that Plusnet customer information had been passed onto ACS:Law via BT in an unencrypted format. The resultant uproar would appear to have made BT more careful and less trusting of third parties obtaining court orders to reveal customer information. Interestingly there are now calls for a test case, which we would presume is lawyers and firms now questioning how accurate IP tracking software used in these cases is.
Worryingly, Gallant Macmillan are asking for some of the details of the January case to be conducted in private for security reasons. The worry here would appear to be that if details of how they store data obtained via the court order became public, it may attract people to attack it to try and obtain it. Hopefully this will not result in the parts of the case where accuracy of the IP data is called into question, or other parts of the case that are of clear public interest being held in private.
Once the Digital Economy Act (DEA) is in place, how copyright infringement is handled may change, though it may not completely stop cases like this occurring. One advantage of the DEA is that the rights holder will not find out who the details of an IP address holder are until the third letter. If the information is wrong, the appeals process will hopefully work sufficiently that if a high false positive rate is seen, rights holders will address how they collect their data.
Illegal file sharing is believed to form a large chunk of broadband traffic, but it is not always clear whether this is down to a small number of users downloading a lot, or a more widespread use of things like torrents to obtain copyrighted material without rights holder permission. While we see a lot of protests from people who have received letters from law firms, until a number of test cases have been heard it is impossible to tell if the voices of protestation are attempts to evade the costs, or all of them are genuine mistakes. The flip side is that the rights holders (which for music is very often not the artist themselves) need to adapt to the broadband age, for example does a film download onto a games console really cost as much to provide as having a high street store where films can be purchased? Another thing needing to change is the trading of rights as commodities, with investors buying up the rights to material as an investment.