UK Lawyers Video Game Piracy Shakedown Catching Plenty Of Innocent Bystanders

from the this-is-what-we-call-a-shakedown dept

Last time we checked in with UK law firm Davenport Lyons, they were trying to set up a shakedown process where they threatened to sue as many people as possible for allegedly sharing a video game. Despite some lofty talk by Davenport Lyons, it was quite clear from the beginning that this never had anything to do with copyright. It was just a straight up shakedown. The firm would send threatening letters claiming that it had evidence (even if it did not) and then demand a settlement fee be paid to avoid an actual lawsuit. It's difficult to see how or why that should be legal.

The firm was aided in its quest by drastically exaggerating a legal "win" in one of these cases. The win was because it was a default judgment. The woman that was accused of file sharing did not show up in court, and the court had no choice but to rule against her. Yet, to hear Davenport Lyons tell it, you might be lead to believe that a full blown court case occurred, with a full defense of the actions, and the woman lost.

A lawyer in the UK who was disgusted by this practice, Michael Coyle, has offered to defend as many innocent recipients of the shakedown letter as possible, and now the press is reporting he's already pursuing seventy cases of innocent people being falsely accused (and has heard from hundreds more). The article profiles one such case, where a couple (aged 54 and 66) were accused of sharing a car racing game. The only problem? They have no video games on their computer, nor any file sharing software (and they didn't even know what it was until they got the threatening letter).

Even more ridiculous? They wrote to Davenport Lyons three times without any response. It was only once a magazine picked up their story that Davenport Lyons and Atari dropped the threat. It's about time that the press shines a light on these practices, which clearly have little to do with protecting the rights of copyright holders, and plenty to do with a new, highly questionable, revenue stream that some might call "extortion."


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Thomas, Oct 30th, 2008 @ 7:11am

    In the book "The Godfather", there was a line "1 lawyer can steal more money than 10 men with guns." Or something on that order. Why hire thugs to rob people at gunpoint when you can do it 'legally' with lawyers? It's no different from **AA; extort money without evidence.

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous of Course, Oct 30th, 2008 @ 7:11am

    How can you call it anything else.

    I threaten to do bad things to you unless you give
    me money I'm not entitled to. What other name fits
    so well as extortion?

    If anyone but a lawyer tried that they'd be in jail.

     

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  3.  
    icon
    Crosbie Fitch (profile), Oct 30th, 2008 @ 7:18am

    No more rights, just privileged

    Copyright holders have no more rights than anyone else, they simply have the privilege of suing anyone who copies their published work without their permission.

    If you believe all men are created equal and that such a truth is self-evident, then you do not privilege anyone above anyone else, even publishers above the public.

    End the inegalitarian privilege. Abolish copyright.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Peavey, Oct 30th, 2008 @ 7:37am

    been there

    A few years ago my mother unknowingly bought me a bootlegged boxset for Christmas off ebay. I couldn't get our money back and decided to resell it (not smart).

    A few days later I got letters from lawyers from the movie studios threatening to sue if I didn't mail them all means that I have to create bootlegged DVDs including a printer, my entire PC and all blank media.

    It was a total shake down based on nothing other than me selling the fake boxset. I told them to screw off and luckily, never heard from them again.

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    No Six Pack, Oct 30th, 2008 @ 7:39am

    Scam

    Not only is it extortion, but it is a scam.
    Where is the DOJ or equivalent ? Why are they not stopping this sort of crap.

    Has the RIAA patented this business model ?

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Crazy Coyote, Oct 30th, 2008 @ 7:55am

    You can steal more money with a pen in a suite than a gun in the street.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    SteveD, Oct 30th, 2008 @ 7:56am

    Default Jugement?

    It seems a bit confused; on the one hand you have torrent freak saying the woman never tried to defend herself and this was a default judgement, and on the other you have organisations like the BBC reporting its a landmark case because its the first that wasn't a default judgement...who is right?

    http://torrentfreak.com/uk-game-piracy-the-propaganda-the-evidence-and-the-damages-080821/
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7568642.stm

    It should also be noted that trackers like the Pirate Bay deliberately pollute the IP pools with fake addresses to hinder this sort of legal action, but its not clear if that was responsible for this particular mistake.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    IP, Oct 30th, 2008 @ 7:57am

    Unique IPs?

    I thought you would have commented on this part of the article Mike:

    "their IP address - the unique numbers which identify a particular computer."

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    No Six Pack, Oct 30th, 2008 @ 8:03am

    Business Model

    1) Get IP Addr from random number generator.
    2) Obtain associated name and street addr from ISP.
    3) Mail letter threatening legal action unless settlement payment is made.
    4) PROFIT !!!

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 30th, 2008 @ 8:17am

    Youve got to pay to play

    Apparently several times?

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous of Course, Oct 30th, 2008 @ 8:18am

    Re: Business Model

    You're doing it all wrong!

    1) Get IP Addr from random number generator.
    2) Obtain associated name and street addr from ISP.
    3) Mail letter threatening legal action unless settlement payment is made.
    4) ???
    5) PROFIT !!!

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Just Me, Oct 30th, 2008 @ 8:42am

    Re: Business Model

    You forgot the part about stealing underpants!

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    JB, Oct 30th, 2008 @ 8:54am

    How is what they are doing any different from the all to famous Nigerian Royalty scams of e-mail lore? The information presented to the person is false, as in the infringement notices, and they are asking for money. If I were ever to get a letter from someone asking (scratch that) DEMANDING money and implying that something bad would happen to me otherwise, I would immediately contact lawyers, authorities, and the supposed company. I would never just hand over money expecting that they are trying to protect or help me. Sadly there are too many innocent minds out there allowing people to take advantage of them. Please question things that are abnormal such as these.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 30th, 2008 @ 8:59am

    Mike, why did you put extortion in quotation marks? It seems to me that the scheme you are describing fits the definition of extortion perfectly - unless there is a more stringent legal definition I'm unaware of?

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Overcast, Oct 30th, 2008 @ 9:32am

    That firm should be shut down - that's like running an extortion ring.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 30th, 2008 @ 9:36am

    Re: Business Model

    You forgot step
    5) Repeat

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 30th, 2008 @ 10:03am

    No no no you people have the steps all wrong

    1) Get IP Addr from random number generator.
    2) Obtain associated name and street addr from ISP.
    3) Mail letter threatening legal action unless settlement payment is made.
    4) Harass and embarrass
    5) Collect money
    6) MAKE PROFIT !!!
    7) Stomp on the defendants
    8) Rinse
    9) Repeat

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 30th, 2008 @ 10:15am

    Re: No more rights, just privileged

    "If you believe all men are created equal and that such a truth is self-evident, then you do not privilege anyone above anyone else, even publishers above the public."

    All men are created equally, no where does it say they will forever remain so.

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Jake, Oct 30th, 2008 @ 11:20am

    As an aside, to the best of this layman's knowledge the UK doesn't have a specific offence of extortion; we have blackmail, fraud and 'Demanding Money With Menaces', which is aimed more at threats of actual violence. I think cases like this fall into a bit of a crack; they're not quite one thing or another, which is a shame because being successfully convicted of any one of those three types of offence could lead the senior partners of Davenport Lyons to spend several years in prison.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Dan, Oct 30th, 2008 @ 11:52pm

    I say counter suits all around. I hear libel is fairly easy to prove in the UK.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    AnonTech, Oct 31st, 2008 @ 7:05am

    Cue the Godfather theme music....

    I think that the Mafia should sue RIAA and D-L for copyright infringement. To my knowledge, they pioneered this income-generating technique so clearly these young punks, RIAA and D-L, are willfully infringing!

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    LGT, Nov 18th, 2008 @ 12:05pm

    Re:

    I just got one of those letters - any suggestion how to come back at them villains?

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Not Happy, Nov 19th, 2008 @ 12:07pm

    Davenport Lyons

    I just received one of these letters in the post today in reference to a download, im going to the Citizens Advice Bureau this coming monday to see how to proceed, i would pay the money just to make them stop but how many times will they try and with how many clients? I cant say for sure that my wireless network is secure and for me to pay them is an admittance of guilt, if someone is using my connection to download how many times have they used it and how could i pay out £505 per download as this could ammount to more money than i have ever earned in my life.

    This is crazy, their letter was very demanding and i was almost tempted to pay just to get this firm off my back then it occured to me, if i pay for this one how many more wiil there be as i know these people who sell pirated material download multiple files sometimes on more than one machine.

    I will just have to wait and see.:(

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Fight Back, Nov 20th, 2008 @ 3:13am

    I have read on other forums that people that have paid up have then recieved more letters after a time asking for further amounts. They have paid up simply to get rid of the stress of having to deal with a court case, perhaps scared of going to jail or having thier job put at risk.
    Not because they actually committed an offence.

    If you have not done anything wrong then you do not and should not pay them a penny. Why would you?!

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    donnathorburn, Nov 22nd, 2008 @ 8:39am

    davenport lyons

    i downloaded a song for my son and i put on my phone and know i am getting sued for the amount of 503 POUNDS from them as well for there client bur i had read that its like they lay a trap and then catch them out i mean i know i shouldnt of done it but i didnt kwow i was file sharing but they get court orders for your isps to give them your details but im going to a lawyer to see what he can do and whats not to say u pay it then a couple of months down the line u get another one were does it end what about the big time sharers they are the ones getting away with it

     

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