ACS:Law Keeps Sending Out More Threat Letters -- Condemned By Politicians, ISPs And General Common Sense

from the not-bullying? dept

Just as Davenport Lyons lawyers are being sent for disciplinary action over the firm's practice of sending large numbers of "pay up or we sue" pre-settlement letters, ACS:Law, the shady firm that effectively spun out of Davenport Lyons to do the same thing is ramping up its efforts. This isn't a huge surprise. Late last year, the firm said it was preparing to send out 30,000 letters, despite numerous studies showing that these letters regularly target innocent people, but scare many people into just paying to avoid a lawsuit.

The practice is being condemned widely. UK politicians have called it a scam. Even (believe it or not) the record labels are criticizing the practice, saying that it's not productive (most of the firms that use ACS:Law/Davenport Lyons/DigiProtect tend to be porn studios and small software providers). The latest is that O2, the UK ISP is condemning these letters as being pure bullying for money.

What's amusing is how ACS:Law tries to defend itself:
"Neither we nor our clients threaten or bully anyone. We send out letters of claim to account holders of internet connections where those internet connections have been identified as being utilised for illegal file-sharing of our clients' copyrighted works.... Our letter makes an enquiry in that regard and invites the recipient of our letter to respond to this evidence. In addition they are invited to enter into a compromise to avoid litigation,"
This is disingenuous in almost every possible way. Sending a legal letter saying that you've been caught breaking the law, and likely will be taken to court (even though ACS:Law almost never seems to actually follow through on that threat), is absolutely a threat. And notice how he calls it "an enquiry," which is again misleading. It's an accusation, and a typical shakedown offer. It's not a "compromise," and it's not an afterthought as presented in the quote above. It's the key point of the letter, and the entirety of the business model put forth by the companies involved, who describe it as a way to "profit" from people sharing their content.

In responding to the fact that even the record labels (via BPI) have condemned these letters, the guy from ACS:Law responds with more ridiculousness:
"I think the BPI is letting its members down. I think they are scared of alienating their customers. My clients don't have the same fear. They take the view that the people they target aren't their customers because they are stealing from them."
Of course, if they were "stealing" from his clients, then it's a criminal, not a civil, matter, and as he must know, the proper response is to go to the police. Not demand they pay up via some sort of shakedown letter.

Finally, the guy from ACS:Law basically admits that he's the one getting rich off of this, noting that he gets more money from this than the copyright holders:
"After my expenses the copyright owner is the largest single beneficiary."
Nice little trick there with the "after my expenses." This is a classic shakedown with a weak attempt at giving it legitimacy by using copyright law as a cover.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 17th, 2010 @ 6:25pm

    What is purported to be a sample of such a letter may be helpful in appreciating what is happening here.

    Such a sample can be found at:

    http://redacted.speedyb.co.uk/

    Since I am not a UK lawyer, I do not know if the statutory citations and how they have applied by UK courts are accurate. The website for ACS does appear tread on thin ice, and particularly WRT its FAQ section. The letter is quite unlike anything I have ever seen. In some regards it does remind me of something similar that was taking place in California under the provisions of Section 17220 of the California Business and Professions Code. Several attorneys were disciplined for what many perceived as "shakedowns", and the law was changed so that only persons actually having a claim under the section could bring suit.

     

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    Richard (profile), Mar 17th, 2010 @ 6:27pm

    Baffling

    I am still amazed that this company is still able to send out these letters let alone the Law Society granting them permission in the first place to do so. Lord Lucas has shown great animosity towards them in The House which is a good thing as the little people rarely have a voice loud enough to be heard.
    I am glad that people are not just sitting back and taking this and I thank people like yourselves for keeping people updated about the situation and what is currently happening.
    It really wouldn't surprise me at all if Lord Mandleson didn't have something to do with these people or actually knows Andrew Crossley. (my assumptions and nothing to do with this site)
    I have come across a few people on Twitter and other places that have received a letter from this company and are clearly innocent as they are completely shocked at being threatened by a company they have never heard of for something they either haven't done or wouldn't have a clue how to it either. I just try to make them more calm by reassuring them that they aren't alone in this and pointing them to BeingThreatened.com and showing them articles like this.
    I think it's a disgrace for a firm to be allowed to get away with something like this whilst the government sit back and do nothing.

     

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    The eejit (profile), Mar 18th, 2010 @ 2:00am

    Here's the best part; Digiprotect can't shake down anyone for that work, because it's already PUBLIC DOMAIN. :DDD

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2010 @ 2:28am

    Hey ACS !!!

    FUCK YOU!!!!

    Sue THAT!

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2010 @ 4:18am

    "After my expenses the copyright owner is the largest single beneficiary."

    1) There cannot be that many expenses involved in sending out letters.
    2) He should not be a benificiary of expenses. Expenses should only be reimbursement for costs incurred whilst doing his job (for which he would receive a fixed salary).

    I think his clients need to rethink who might be stealing from them.

     

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    Nick Coghlan (profile), Mar 18th, 2010 @ 5:56am

    Enquiry and compromise

    Dear sir,

    It has come to the attention of myself and the interests I represent that you are the proprietor of a property containing many items of a flammable and/or breakable nature. Are you aware that this region has an unfortunate history of problems with accidental outbreaks of fire and other incidents which have caused severe damage to properties in the area?

    However, I'm also happy to advise that I and my associates are able to offer our expertise in ensuring your facility is appropriately secured against such difficulties. We will be visiting your establishment tomorrow evening to discuss ways in which we may assist.

    Regards,
    Aifam Bom

     

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    Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), Mar 18th, 2010 @ 6:51am

    Nah, that's inconceivable!

    The ridiculousness of ACS almost makes me think that someone in charge over there knows that the amount of backlash this is causing and is deliberately going over the line. Maybe to just highlight the issue, or to actually get a ruling getting these 'pre-settlement' letters as improper.

    Almost.

     

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    anon, Apr 28th, 2010 @ 2:13pm

    Lib Dems

    The Lib Dems are probably the best mainstream party for those of you concerned about the freedom of the internet.

    Less free internet + copyright laws mean a lower quality of life for those under the heel in the UK.

    I hate politics but even I am getting out to vote for them, make sure you do your part too and turn this around.

     

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    bjjbook, Apr 24th, 2011 @ 10:07pm

    I'm also happy to advise that I and my associates are able to offer our expertise in ensuring your facility is appropriately secured against such difficulties. We will be visiting your establishment tomorrow evening to discuss ways in which we may assist. ran แรน

     

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