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Porn piracy claims could hit 9,000+ O2 Broadband subscribers

Almost 10,000 O2 Broadband users could be in line for threatening letters from a company pursuing alleged illegal porn downloaders.

Illegal downloads by Flickr/sillygwailoLaw firm Goldeneye International and porn producer Ben Dover have obtained court orders for 9,124 O2 account-holder addresses based on downloaders’ IP addresses.

However, the High Court said 12 other claimants – mostly British adult entertainment producers including One Eyed Jack, Harmony and Sweetmeats Productions (tasteful, no?) – would have to bring separate cases.

The Honorable Mr Justice Arnold also said letters to alleged downloaders will not be able to automatically assume that the account holder was the illegal downloader, so Goldeneye will have to request proof of peer-to-peer downloading activity.

Goldeneye will also have to negotiate each case individually and bring them before the Patents County Court as a ‘specialised tribunal’.

Goldeneye’s original letters would have demanded £700 in damages and threatened court action or to have the subscriber’s broadband connection slowed or terminated – even though there’s no way to demand this yet.

Mike O’Connor, chief executive of Consumer Focus, welcomed a precedent which could end the use of ‘Pay Now – Or Else’ speculative invoices.

O’Connor said: “Following four years of speculative invoicing this case sets an important precedent for the rights of consumers, particularly those who are innocent, and the responsibilities of companies seeking redress on behalf of copyright owners.

“It is very welcome that the court has recognised the bill-payer should not be automatically assumed to be guilty when a copyright owner believes they have detected copyright infringement on that internet connection. Consumers should not be subject to the type of threatening letters Golden Eye intended to send to more than 9,000 O2 customers.


“In seeking the personal details of consumers through an Internet Service Provider it is only right that any claim must take into account the privacy and data protection rights of the provider’s customers.”

O2 didn’t dispute the demand for its users’ addresses but consumer rights group Consumer Focus was given permission to intervene.

Goldeneye used a method called a Norwich Pharmacal Order to demand O2 hand over its customers’ addresses, but the orders are very difficult to contest.

It’s the same method used by disgraced solicitors ACS:Law to threaten thousands of internet users with demands for compensation for illegal downloads.

The ACS:Law case collapsed in February when Judge Birss QC decided that IP addresses were not proof that the user of the address or account subscriber was the illegal downloader.

The court also questioned whether ACS:Law had the right to bring the case on behalf of other copyright owners – owner Anthony Crossley was eventually suspended from practising law for two years and ordered to pay £76,000 in costs.

Image: Flickr/sillygwailo

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