ACS:Law Boss Andrew Crossley Breached Solicitor's Code, 'Brought The Legal Profession Into Disrepute'

from the paying-attention dept

To the various lawyers in the US who have been jumping on the mass copyright infringement/pre-settlement shakedown bandwagon, you might want to pay attention to what's happening in the UK, where the guy who really made this strategy famous has been found to have breached the solicitors code of conduct with these lawsuits. Yes, ACS:Law's Andrew Crossley has not received a kind reaction from the judge who was already troubled by the way these cases had played out:
Ruling in the Patents County Court in London on Monday, Judge Birss QC described ACS:Law's pursuit of illegal filesharers as "amateurish and slipshod" and said it had "brought the legal profession into disrepute".

Birss said Crossley had breached the solicitors code of conduct because he was responsible for the licence agreement between Media CAT and the original copyright holders, and stood to profit from it. The code of conduct states that "you must not enter into an arrangement to receive a contingency fee for work done in prosecuting or defending any contentious proceedings" before the court.

The judge said: "I am quite satisfied to the standard necessary for this stage of a wasted costs application that Mr Crossley is responsible for the basic agreements [the licence agreements between Media CAT and original copyright holders] and has thereby acted in breach of the solicitors rule 2.04.

"In my judgment, the combination of Mr Crossley's revenue sharing arrangements and his service of the notices of discontinuance serves to illustrate the dangers of such a revenue sharing arrangement and has, prima facie, brought the legal profession into disrepute. It may be better placed under the revenue sharing heading in this judgment but it is, prima facie, improper conduct in any event."
It's nice to see court systems on both sides of the ocean not taking kindly to this sort of clear abuse of the judicial system as a part of a business model.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    Crosbie Fitch (profile), Apr 20th, 2011 @ 5:47am

    How about the legislative system?

    Roll on when the court systems don't take kindly to clear abuse of the legislative system as part of a business model, i.e. enacting the privileges of copyright and patent.

     

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  2.  
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    John Doe, Apr 20th, 2011 @ 6:04am

    You Misread the case completely

    It had nothing to do with being OK or not OK to sue pirates or the business model of suing pirates.

    It had to do with under English law if it was OK, when it is OK, for lawyers (solicitors in England) to use a contingency fee where they recover a percentage such as a third of the recovery.

    Without a contingency fee, the poor can't sue (unless a lawyer works for free). The rich have money to pay lawyers. It's ironic to see Mike taking such an anti-progressive, ultra-conservative view of the law.

    At least the original was in English, and Mike did not fake reading a Dutch-language report. Unfortunately, it seems like Mike can't or won't comprehend in English any more than he can in Dutch. It appears that Mike just ASSumes what he wants without reading.

     

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  3.  
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    Berenerd (profile), Apr 20th, 2011 @ 6:14am

    Re: You Misread the case completely

    Honestly, I somewhat agree, it isn't a win for file sharers, however I don't think that is what Mike is saying though I can see how someone who already dislikes Mike can see it that way.
    The agreement between the lawyers and the copywrite enforcers went above and beyond what a normal charge for a case would go. Their entire model and methodology is to get as much money without ever seeing light in a court. They not only got a percentage of winnings, but got MORE if the case never went to court, though I am unable to point to articles here from work, but honestly, I can't blame you for not trusting in the word of a blog commentor.

     

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  4.  
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    Michael, Apr 20th, 2011 @ 6:26am

    Amazing

    "brought the legal profession into disrepute"

    That's a little like making the mafia look bad, or making politicians look dishonest.

     

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  5.  
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    Mr Big Content, Apr 20th, 2011 @ 6:29am

    Do The Pirates Care About “Bringing The Legal Profession Into Disrepute”?

    No, they don’t. Isn’t it unfair to hold the bad guys to one standard, and the good guys to a different one?

     

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  6.  
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    Greg G (profile), Apr 20th, 2011 @ 6:30am

    Disrepute?

    While I agree with the judge here, I think he's wrong on one point.

    The law profession has been in disrepute long before Andrew Crossley was ever a twinkle in his daddy's eye.

     

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  7.  
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    Lyle D, Apr 20th, 2011 @ 6:37am

    http://torrentfreak.com/isps-challenge-to-digital-economy-act-rejected-110420/

    Yes, but for every win there's an even bigger loss... Which one will get the most publicity?

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 20th, 2011 @ 6:44am

    Re: Do The Pirates Care About “Bringing The Legal Profession Into Disrepute”?

    How can you tell who's the bad guy, when those in charge of applying justice are perverting the justice system themselves?

     

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  9.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Apr 20th, 2011 @ 6:53am

    Re: Do The Pirates Care About “Bringing The Legal Profession Into Disrepute”?

    ... "Isn’t it unfair to hold the bad guys to one standard, and the good guys to a different one?"

    It is all a matter of perspective. Consider a group of individuals that continually steal from society and individuals, that use legal contracts and accounting tricks to prevent people from getting paid, that use threats and intimidation tactics, that bribe government officials with high paying jobs to get laws passed, that continually push for the violation of basic rights, that push for unreasonable searches and monitoring with out judicial oversight. If you consider these people the good guys.

    Then I prefer to be the bad guy ...

     

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  10.  
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    Richard (profile), Apr 20th, 2011 @ 7:15am

    Re: You Misread the case completely

    It had to do with under English law if it was OK, when it is OK, for lawyers (solicitors in England) to use a contingency fee where they recover a percentage such as a third of the recovery.

    Without a contingency fee, the poor can't sue (unless a lawyer works for free). The rich have money to pay lawyers. It's ironic to see Mike taking such an anti-progressive, ultra-conservative view of the law.


    Sorry - it is you who is misreading. The rules in England do allow for contingency fees in those cases where poor people would be otherwise unable to sue (we used to have a better system called legal aid for this but the government has misguidedly wiped it out almost compeletely). What they do not allow is this kind of "business deal" contingency fee, to allow rich people to sue large numbers of poor people at minimal cost - and quite right too!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 20th, 2011 @ 7:17am

    Re: Amazing

    That was my first thought, too.

     

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    The Groove Tiger (profile), Apr 20th, 2011 @ 7:34am

    Re: Amazing

    But they have those fancy powdered wigs!

     

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  13.  
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    John Doe, Apr 20th, 2011 @ 7:44am

    Re: Re: You Misread the case completely

    It's clear from the article that the judge objects to the "revenue sharing" which in the USA is called a contingency fee.

    In the U.K. there are NO-WIN, NO-PAY fees, where if the poor client wins the lawyer can collect, NOT A THIRD OF THE DAMAGES, but his normal hourly fee.

    If there is a 50-50 chance of winning a case, this means that British lawyers can collect their REGULAR fee half the time and in effect work for the poor for half-price.

    The original BBC article linked to the official Solicitors Regulation: http://www.sra.org.uk/rule2/#r2-04

    2.04 Contingency fees

    (1)
    You must not enter into an arrangement to receive a contingency fee for work done in prosecuting or defending any contentious proceedings before a court of England and Wales, a British court martial or an arbitrator where the seat of the arbitration is in England and Wales, except as permitted by statute or the common law.

    end of regulation -----------

    There may be other exemptions that I don't know about, but the main exemption is that a British lawyer can say "don't pay me if you lose" which in effect is providing free legal services to the poor.

    In the USA, lawyers can receive more than their standard hourly fee when they win, to compensate for the lost cases.
    Of course this may (over) encourage lawsuits.

     

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  14.  
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    Mike42 (profile), Apr 20th, 2011 @ 7:56am

    Re: Re: You Misread the case completely

    Please don't refer to copyright infringers as "file sharers." Call them infringers, or even "pirates" or "thieves" if you must. File sharing has far too many legitimate uses other than infringement.

     

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  15.  
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    PaulT (profile), Apr 20th, 2011 @ 1:25pm

    Re: Re: Re: You Misread the case completely

    Given that the people involved were not proven guilty of infringement before any court and were simply threatened into paying to make the accusation go away, such a distinction is pretty much irrelevant.

    When people being sued are presented with due process involving unambiguous evidence of their supposed actions, then we can talk about what to call such people.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 20th, 2011 @ 1:43pm

    Re: Re: Do The Pirates Care About “Bringing The Legal Profession Into Disrepute”?

    Very important point.

    Count me as being on the 'bad guy' side.

     

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  17.  
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    PaulT (profile), Apr 20th, 2011 @ 2:08pm

    Re: Do The Pirates Care About “Bringing The Legal Profession Into Disrepute”?

    "Isn’t it unfair to hold the bad guys to one standard, and the good guys to a different one?"

    What colour is the sky in your monochrome world, black or white?

    Besides which, no it's not. People upholding the side of "good" should be held to a higher standard than those on the side of "bad", else what's the point of fighting them? If you think it's necessary to stoop to mass scale intimidation, threat and extortion to uphold the law, something's gone very wrong with your viewpoint.

     

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  18.  
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    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Apr 20th, 2011 @ 8:30pm

    Re: Disrepute?

    Which would you prefer: lawyers or lynch-mobs?

     

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  19.  
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    John Whitaker, Aug 14th, 2012 @ 1:05am

    Contingent fees are OK in the US.

    It is interesting to learn that contingent fee arrangements are not allowed in the UK. Our firm takes them all the time, although not for this type of extortionate claims. Every case we file, we expect to go to trial.
    Our contingent fee litigation philosophy

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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