Are Copyright Holders Purposely Putting Content On P2P In Order To Demand Money?

from the that's-what-we-call-extortion dept

We’ve discussed the highly questionable activities of UK law firm Davenport Lyons for its supposed campaigns on behalf of various copyright holders. From what we had seen, the firm wasn’t particularly interested in actually protecting content from being shared online — only in threatening as many people as possible with “pre-settlement letters” to get them to pay up to avoid being sued. This certainly feels like what’s commonly called extortion, especially, as it came to light that the pre-settlement letters are being sent to many innocent bystanders. Since this is a business model issue (squeezing individuals to pay up) rather than actually being about protecting copyright, it’s no surprise that the pre-settlement letters would be sent as widely as possible, even if there was no actual evidence showing guilt.

However, the situation may be even worse than originally suspected. In an article about Davenport Lyons’ latest client, TorrentFreak notes that the copyright holder may be contracting with a company to purposely spreading the content on file sharing networks for the purpose of making it easier to find people to threaten with pre-settlement letters. There are a number of different players involved here, but basically, copyright holders are licensing the copyright on various movies to a firm called DigiProtect. DigiProtect, in turn, hires Davenport Lyons to send out the pre-settlement letters. But in a leaked contract between DigiProtect and one copyright holder, it’s made quite clear in the contractual language, that DigiProtect is expected to upload the movies as widely as possible prior to having a law firm send out the pre-settlement letters:

To achieve the purpose outlined in clause 1, LICENSOR grants DIGIPROTECT the exclusive right to make the movies listed in Appendix 1 worldwide available to the public via remote computer networks, so-called peer-2-peer and internet file sharing networks such as e-Donkey, Kazaa, Bitorrent, etc. for the duration of this agreement

In other words, it’s quite clear that this has nothing to do with preventing content from getting on file sharing networks. Instead, they’re specifically putting it there themselves, apparently hoping to get it as widespread as possible, in order to send out the threat letters more widely, so they can collect on the “settlements” from people scared that they’re about to get sued. It’s hard to see how that’s not a massive abuse of copyright law.

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Companies: davenport lyons, digiprotect

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Comments on “Are Copyright Holders Purposely Putting Content On P2P In Order To Demand Money?”

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C says:

Legal implications?

I don’t know much about legal-stuff, but if they gave this company “the exclusive right to make the movies listed in Appendix 1 worldwide available to the public” wouldn’t that mean that downloading said movies would be perfectly legal? After all, they’re giving this company the right to distribute these works, and that’s what the company is doing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Correct me if I'm wrong...

Entrapment is only for law enforcement officials.

In this case, all the complaints are null and void and you can legally download the content of whomever is a party to that contract. They signed away the distribution rights online and DIGIPORT was told to spread it far and wide.

You can’t reasonably expect, under the UK or US law system anyways, to “distribute” something without people having received it.

I expect the discovery stage of some lawsuits may turn very interesting.

hegermon13 says:

Authorized share

If the content is uploaded by the content owner or a licensed content distributor, then doesn’t it become an authorized download? And if said authorized download comes with no license agreement or fine print, is there anything legally stopping a person from re-uploading it? At least, that’s how I think it would be here in the US.

Douglas Gresham (profile) says:

Or it could be that . . .

. . . in order to appear like a normal peer they seed as they leech, and are covering their backs. Or perhaps they’re actually looking to go after downloaders instead of uploaders. Don’t get me wrong, knowing someone who got a Davenport Lyons letter I can attest that it is a shakedown, and that they’re pretty unscrupulous in their dealings, but I wouldn’t call this a “smoking gun” for the activities you’re describing.

Douglas Gresham (profile) says:

Re: Re: Or it could be that . . .

The friend in question is the phone bill payer in a flat of 3, and they often have guests over who use the internet (geek flat) – amongst a bunch of other issues that have been gone over often, we asked them to identify which person using the connection was allegedly infringing (bear in mind UK copyright law requires you to be the infringer or to have given explicit permission you to be liable). Their response was that my friend should seek legal advice, or maybe just pay up because it was cheaper that way. My friend responded pointing out they’d addressed nothing, and DL finally came back with what looked like a stock “secure-your-wireless-connection” response to the wireless defense (which we hadn’t used, but obviously others had).

PaulT (profile) says:

I’d love to see someone defend this properly. Let the rights holders explain to the court how it’s “unauthorised” downloading if they put it there in the first place. Surely placing the film on a P2P network is an invitation to download, and therefore authorised? At least there would be a reasonable doubt introduced as to whether the defendant would be aware that the content, placed on a searchable public network by the copyright owners, was not intended to be downloaded.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Yeah, but how is this any different from photographers putting photos on FLIKR then getting all worked up about infringement when someone uses one of their photos in a spoof video? [can’t find the link to the story]

Don’t get me wrong, I feel strongly that a copyright holder putting content on publicly accessible areas of the web is a defacto invitation to the public copy at will. Nevertheless, these guys are engaged in some really sleazy tactics that will likely get them disbarred.

Grae says:

Re: Re: Re:

You’re missing the mark a bit here. To compare the two accurately, the photographer would have to be suing anyone who viewed their photos on Flickr. In both cases, the distribution to the end user was authorized by the copyright holder.

To see the Davenport Lyons cases as comparable to the Flickr photographer case, you’d have to have people taking the distributed games, remixing them into their own software, releasing the software, and then having D.L. suing them.

Matt says:

Re: Immunity

reading comprehension is good too. Permission to make the movies available doesn’t mean downloading info. That means sharing it to the website.

You are not a lawyer, and it’s a good thing based on what you read.

Nobody has or can or will be sued for downloading material. It’s a debate about being sued for sharing material.

Anonymous Coward says:

so if you’re so hell-bent on protecting your content, then why are you making it available online. I suspect the content holders see the extortion for what it is, a new source of revenue. This needs to be brought before a judge, let them explain how their content is so valuable and piracy is such an issue, that they are paying a third party to freely distributing their own content.

Emilio says:

Well, if they granted this company the exclusive right to distribute the stuff on P2P, that’s no defense for the extortion victims, because of the way P2P works: In order to download the goods you have to simultaneously upload them to others as you get the pieces yourself… They threaten to sue you for that act of uploading, or distributing, as you download, not for the downloading.

Judsonian (profile) says:


What is the source of this document? Where is it and is it a “real” doc? I hate when an exerpt is posted with no access to the entire publication (document or otherwise). And the lack of a trailing period raises question to its authenticity.
I’m sure that RIAA, MPAA, BSA has similar agreements with their legal teams. For purposes of documentation they would have to download an entire file to ensure it is actually the file in question. Of course it could be argued that the legal firm would not neccessarily “HAVE” to upload the file (uploads can be turned off entirely on most programs).

Danigirl says:

People, I read a lot of you talking about Davenport Lyons and that a few of you personally know some of the victims of their tactics.
Now, there is 4 of us living together, and we, as a household, have received one of those letters.
What is the latest update on this issue? Do they follow up on their threats or what? What did your friend do? Pay up? Ignored the letter? Defended themselves in court?
I am reading a lot of opinions, suggestions, comments, but I would appreciate something more factual. Moderators comments very welcome as well, maybe you know better!
Thank you in advance!

Twinrova says:

This blog confused me.

“But in a leaked contract between DigiProtect and one copyright holder…”

“It’s hard to see how that’s not a massive abuse of copyright law.”

We should be outraged! We should put all these people in jail (on computer fraud charges, no less)! We should fight back!

Nah, we should just accept this as typical business operations which have been going on for years. You make it sound like this is something new and we should worry it’s happening in this country.

Well, let me put those worries to rest: It IS happening here, and just like in the UK, it’s also intentional.

This is what happens when companies take it upon themselves to use loopholes in the system (THEY didn’t upload the file, so they used someone else) to gain revenue via other means.

Or does this economic crisis teach you nothing?

Why do you think I don’t buy music or movies anymore? Do you think I want to give up my entertainment? Of course not! But with NO ALTERNATIVE SOLUTIONS, I’m stuck with my old library of movies and games to “entertain” myself until these industries quick screwing over consumers.

So don’t sit here and try to scare the public this could happen, especially without giving them options to address it.

As long as consumers buy these industry’s products, the more stories like these you will “print” to the world.

Nothing should shock you anymore at the practices these businesses take to generate “revenue”.

Also confused says:

DL and Digiprotect

So – I have a letter also – do I pay up and make them go away, or do I ignore/shred it ? £500 is quite a lot of money…. What’s my peace of mind worth?

The letter is very explicit in that they are complaining about about having been able to download a file from my computer – not that I have downloaded from elsewhere – I’d very much be interested in knowing if they have a leg to stand on here (specifically under UK law). I certainly don’t have the the file now – not even very sure I ever did, but it’s not impossible…

concerned user says:

Re: DL and Digiprotect

I’ve also had the letter and I know I downloaded it.. the claim is that I made it avaialable to others. Trading standards checked it out (some) and it seemed legal to them so I think I’m going to pay BUT everywhere I read people say not to, BUT again I can’t see anyone following up with I got a letter, there is a chance I was seeding it and I didn’t pay and I didn’t get taken to court! I’d love to see/hear from anyone that has a definitive answer!

Sarah says:

Re: Re: DL and Digiprotect


We also had the letter. I work at the Citizens Advice and they checked it out for me and they said it was unfortunate but i should pay it. Its really upset me. Make sure you get proof of posting and monitor your bills. Glad we are not alone in this predicament buts its one hell of wad of cash to fork out just before Christmas.

Max Gigawatt says:

Re: Re: DL, Digiprotect, Copyrights and P2P

Copyrights and P2P
An essaic commentary to the discussion at
by Max Gigawatt, 27 August 2010

In my not so humble opinion, Davenport Lyons (DL) has engaged in privately operating that which only police agencies are permitted to do… an ENTRAPMENT scheme. Thus they (DL) are *clearly* engaging in a massive CRIMINAL ACTIVITY of tremendous seriousness, or have done so. They have, in effect, set themselves up as THE POLICE, and have implicitly IMPERSONATED THE POLICE for PURPOSES of EXTORTION.

Furthermore, they have been part of a CRIMINAL CONSPIRACY with DigiProtect AND the original copyright holders, who all are thus also guilty of conspiring to IMPERSONATE THE POLICE for PURPOSES of EXTORTION.

Don’t anyone pay them, ever! It would be like paying a ransom to kidnappers… it only encourages them to break the Law more and more.
The no-good, lying bastards would not DARE to bring a case to Court, for they would immediately be unmasked and revealed as the cowardly, conniving Criminals that they are!

Furthermore, the entire Copyright Debate is a Red Herring! When you download or upload “a photograph”, “a movie” or “a song”, etc., you are NOT transferring the ORIGINAL WORK… only a (usually highly degraded) COPY, which, being digital, suffers from all manner of “sampling and conversion errors” and DOES NOT DUPLICATE THE ORIGINAL WORK, which Original Work was (mostly if not entirely) a product of mechanisms which are INHERENTLY ANALOG, such as lenses, chemical processes, paint brushes, guitars, the human voice, etc., etc.; in short: The Real Thing. It is as though (the heirs, agents and assigns of) Leonardo da Vinci were to claim that photographic reproductions of “the Mona Lisa” ARE “the Mona Lisa”, and that your possession, duplicating and exchange of such copy or copies is DEPRIVING THEM OF THE ORIGINAL! Clearly such an argument by them is best described in polite company as “a vast load of bovine excrement!”
If one goes back to the original intent and purpose of Copyrights, it will be seen that they were a ‘Special Dispensation’ and ‘for the Public Good’ and were made for TWO REASONS ONLY:
1. To facilitate and promote the WIDESPREAD DISTRIBUTION of the author’s ‘brainchild’: his most carefully chosen thoughts as crafted into words, the Printed Word in that case; and only secondarily…
2. To help Publishers recover the Capital Investments in their Printing Presses, because without printing presses, no such Public Benefit via Widespread Distribution would have been possible at that time.

That this ‘Special Dispensation, for the Public Good’ allowed the publishers to make a Profit is at most a minor part of the original situation, and strictly speaking, is only relevant to the extent that such profits, ASSUMED AS being fairly shared with Authors, would *tend to* encourage authors to be more prolific in producing one brainchild after another… but that is about Quantity, not Quality, and is thus not a matter of Public Good. Even the ancients had an appreciation for someone filtering out the “garbage” for them, and they were *far* less busy than we are. In antiquity (when books were copied by hand, a months-long process), the Authors were mostly never paid a red cent. Some may have had a benefactor who paid them a stipend for the duration of writing, or a one-time commission, but there was never any notion of any kind of per-copy remuneration… Perish the thought!

That the Printer’s Copyright laws were later expanded and generalized to include other forms of media (and the reproduction and distribution of such media) should not be interpreted as erasing the Original Purpose and Intent of Copyrights. To the contrary, those later extensions should be viewed as steps which seemed necessary and expedient at the time, but which were based on the same old technology-at-the-time kind of considerations. Those considerations no longer apply; the march of technology has brought us to the point where every man, woman and child is now easily capable of publishing any “brainchild” of their choosing to the entire world, almost instantly, and at close to zero cost.

You should see now that P2P file exchange is the modern equivalent of the Movable Type (Gutenberg) Printing Press… it maximizes the WIDESPREAD DISTRIBUTION of the Artists’ brainchild or “Content”, whether that be still images, audio, video, 3D or whatever may come next. That it cuts the MIDDLEMEN out of the equation is neither here nor there; the only reason they were ever granted Special Dispensation is because of the particular (rare and expensive) state of duplicating technology AT THE TIME, hundreds of years ago.
Nowadays, the Public Good seems to have been largely and ‘conveniently’ forgotten in favor of Endless Unearned Profits, while the Widespread Distribution of an Artist’s brainchild is generally only hampered and impeded by those old Copyright Laws, acting as they do to “fill the vacuum” in which the just and proper Artists’ Compensation Scheme should have evolved. Unfortunately, those old Laws did not come bearing an Expiration Date or Sunset Clause… but they should have!

Finally, the media industry groups which make these absurd claims of “copyright infringement” know perfectly well that THEY are the TRUE PIRATES, in that they attempt use their shyster shenanigans to rob everyone else, the Artists and the Consumers alike, while maximizing benefit to themselves! Thus, with them actually CREATING NOTHING, and having no regard for the Public Good, they have shot themselves in their collective feet, and as a result they have NO LEG TO STAND ON. They have made themselves into useless antisocial pariahs, whining about how they are not getting “their fair share” (read: the lion’s share) of what they consider to be their ENTITLEMENT. What they are entitled to is EXACTLY NOTHING.

— Max

ash says:

this is bollocks….do you really think they will be able to sue all the people illegally downloading. no chance. thinking they send out 100’s of 1000’s of letters to people all over the world and make a good chunk of cash from the fools that pay. dont pay…simple as that. have done exstensive research on this company and read 100’s of forums. cant read that anyone have ever been fined. (or maybe that one german lady for downloading some pinball game) coinsidence that she is german….i think not.

luke allerton says:

my mum also recieved a letter from davenport lyons to pay the amount on £505 becuase i downloaded the scooter-jumping all over the world album, i was outraged as it was on the website which alows you to download from , but i think there saying ive gotta pay up because everyone else as downloaded it from me, they sent a letter to BT to get my address and details on the 28th march 2008 , OH AND I DIDNT DOWNLOAD THE ALBUM UNTILL 5TH MAY 2008 , which they say came out in october time in the uk which it actually came out it april may time in the uk , myself i think the letter is a scam but i am going to make an apointment with a solicitor to see what they say.

Mum says:

Davenport Lyons

I’ve got the letter too. KC informed me months ago that a court order had been made for my details for sharing adult content videos. I was devestated and rang DL who wouldn’t discuss it but said I would get a letter in about 3 weeks. When it got to 4-5 months I thought it was maybe just a warning and relaxed a bit.

Now the letter from DL states I shared Scooter, Jumping all over the world using Bittorent (don’t know if I’ve spelled that right). Obvously as a 59 year old I haven’t heard of these. My son swears he did not download it and hasn’t heard of bittorent although he does admit to limewire.

We can’t afford £525 and I certainly am not signing the form to say I will delete it from my computer, I feel that is admiting I did it. Just to be clear I did not download anything.

If a solicitor costs £500 to act for you and you could still have to pay, what’s the point?

I did ring KC to ask why I wasn’t told if someone was using my connection illegally but got no sensible reply to that.

I really don’t know which way to turn but am hanging on until the last minute to see if DL will be exposed as I feel it is a scam. They know I can’t prove I or anyone else didn’t do it.

Mum says:

Davenport Lyons


Thanks to your comment about the dates not adding up I have checked my own letter and it’s the same. The letter was sent on 28 March 2008 together with a schedule showing I downloaded on 4 April 2008.

There is definately something very wrong and in everything I’ve read I’ve not noticed anyone else pick up on the dates.

I’m going to be busy tomorrow, calling anyone I can think of.

lukeallerton says:

it does sound a bit dodgey , they sent a a copy of the surposed court letter with my letter about the download which i did not hear about them even going to court about it, and when my mum phoned BT they said they did not no anything about it, i reckon some pricks have hacked onto systems and printed the relevant copys and sent them to hundreds of inocent people, ive been told to chuck the letter in the bin and forget about it but if i do this then i get another letter saying ive gotta pay thousands i wont be happy , so ill be on the phone to the solicitors tomorrow to get advice , ill let you know what they say , and why is it only scooters album ? lol

penumbra (user link) says:

Online advice for people

Hi, all.

This has previously been mentioned, but there is a discussion forum about this at Slyck.

In particular, there are two summary threads “Davenport Lyons – what can we do as a group?” and also “Davenport Lyons – I’ve received a letter what do I do?”. There is also a discussion thread there.

I encourage all those falsely accused to write to their MPs, MEPs and news outlets as detailed in the second link. Also, the third link is a collection of information about how you might want to handle yourself.

wanbo says:

I got a letter ages ago from Davenporn Lyons, not for the crappy scooter crap or rubbish porn. Twas some cheap crappy xbox game and I swear on baby jesus’s life I didn’t do it!
Luke I totally agree and I would suggest in the arse. They are no different to any criminal scammer!
I feel companies and artists have a right to protect their work but this isn’t the way.

Sarah says:

Its hit Newsbeat today. I am in a total quandary with it all. I took it to work who said it was above board and sorry but you have to pay it and now I am not so sure. Yes I admit we did d/l the album but if my hard earned money is just going to help the porn industry i am not happy.

Just checked our credit card and its still pending and just dont know what to do for the best???

Tim says:

Giving it away

So really, they are contracted to give it away. In IP protection law, the easiest way to circumvent costly legal fees associated with registering IP is to hold a public forum or publish your IP in a journal, making it impossible for anyone to later register it. Is this not similar. Give it away, then try and “charge” for it later?

luke says:

hey guys davenport lyons was on watchdog tonite they did a big video about it , a guy said they cant do anything with just an ip address they will need to come to our houses and look onto out harddrive to find us guilty i was so pleased when i got told it was on watchdog lol that should save me 500 quid , if they wanna come to my house and scan my hard drive all i need to do is wipe it which has already happend or geta new computer so basically there fuckiing fucked

Baron210 (profile) says:

ASC Law Letter for alleged MP3 Download

I have also had an extortion attempt, I have taken free legal advice from a specialist lawyer (in intellectual property disputes), and on his advice (and approval of my letter / reply), have sent said reply, denying any wrongdoing, but i’m a bit incensed by it all.
Not at all worried, because I have free legal advice too if needed by a member of the family who is also a barrister, but I do feel that this company is operating on the fringes of what is legal, and we are all (letter recieprients), guilty as charged unless we pay up, and there is a statement in the letter that indicates a denial is simply not enough, they will still press the court case.
The MD of the company, Andrew Crossley, in a TV / Net video interview hastened to say that the threatening letter is not a demand , but a request for money, it all reeks of a phishing scam, that unfortunately has been made semi – legal by a court order against the ISP’s that are forced to release IP address / account info, and from there, the cash demand letter wouldn’t stand up in a defended court case.
Not getting anything out of my bank account (for something I did not do), £300.00 for an mP3 I don’t even like sounds like extortion, and I have written to my MP, and the house of commons too (the PM).
Must get these “no win- no fee” tuppeny hafepenny solicitors struck off (SRA aware too).
The ID Process from Digiprotect was proven unsound in Germany, but the UK has to play catch-up in the high tech IP war, until then, there are a lot of spooked people feeding this scam with cash!
Sorry – a bit long winded, but I like to get this off of my chest. 🙂 Baron210

Dan says:


If Digiprotect and co are putting these movies on P2P sights with the sole reason to get people to download them. Are they not therefore breaking the law themselves. The intelectuall rights of the movie will still be the owners and therefore Digiprotect will be doing the same as the people they are persecuting. It can’t be right that to threaten you with breaking the law these people have to break the law themselves…. tis a tad rich !
Also is this not Entrapment ?

Would someone reply to this. I would really like to find out .

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