A British lawyer who falsely accused thousands people of internet piracy has been suspended from practising law for two years.
Anthony Crossley’s firm, ACS:Law, sent more than 5,000 letters to people on behalf of clients, demanding ‘settlements’ of £500 for illegally downloading music and adult material.
Many of those accused denied the allegations, and this week Crossley admitted six charges including using his position as a solicitor to attempt to take advantage of others, and of acting where there was a conflict of interest in pursuing the claims.
At a hearing of the Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal on Monday, he was also found guilty of a seventh charge and suspended from practice for two years and ordered to pay £76,000 in costs.
David Potts, head of business litigation at Ralli, the law firm that represented some of Crossley’s targets, told The Guardian: “”This is undoubtedly a good day for consumers, in particular those who may have been inappropriately sued by Mr Crossley’s clients, whose position has now been vindicated not only by the patents county court but also by the decision of the Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal.”
ACS:Law became a villain of internet freedom campaigners, and its activities were exposed in late 2010 after hackers broke into its website and leaked details of thousands of internet users. The firm was wound up in February 2011.
Activists complained that ACS:Law’s methods of tracking down illegal downloaders were invalid, and that it might not even have the authority to demand payments.
A patents county court judge later attacked Crossley for bringing “the legal profession into disrepute” and failing to provide “documents which plainly should have been provided [as evidence before the court]”.
The ACS:Law case has also halted activities of other lawyers using Crossley’s methods to identify illegal downloaders, by tracking their IP addresses and using a court order to force their Internet Service Provider to hand over their details.