Copyright Troll Tries To Silence Anti-Troll Blogger With Law Enforcement Threats
from the streisand-trollfect dept
Okay, let’s dive right into this one, because there are some details that need to be summarized before we get into the meat of this story. TCYK is a a company named after a Robert Redford film, The Company You Keep, which the company attempted to use as as a profit center by sending out threat letters to suspected copyright pirates in the UK, including to an 82 year old woman, because why the hell not? Copyright trolling and threat and settlement letters from folks like these aren’t especially news-worthy, but what makes TCYK interesting is the convoluted shell-game it plays by operating from the United States and partnering with local UK businesses that barely exist just to extort money out of the public. Well, that and its involvement with people connected to the whole Malibu Media mess from a few years back.
Instead of setting up in the UK themselves to chase alleged pirates themselves, TCYK employ the services of a company called Hatton and Berkeley. This is where things get messy. According to the UK government’s Companies House database, the sole director of Hatton and Berkeley is a man called Paul Carter yet according to his various claims in the media and on his website, Robert Croucher says he is both managing director and owner. In fact, according to public records Robert Croucher has never been listed as any kind of director of the company nor listed as having had any kind of shareholding. Croucher also claims to be personally based at 43, Berkeley Square in London while dozens of companies share the same address. It appears to be a virtual office.
Only complicating matters is that when alleged pirates receive ‘pay-up-or-else’ letters from Hatton and Berkeley on behalf of TCYK LLC, they aren’t told to pay either. Instead they are told to send money to a third company called Ranger Bay Ltd, a company operated by a Marcus Auton. A former Bank of America employee and experienced accountant, Auton makes no mention of his copyright troll links on his Linkedin profile but TF has confirmed that his company is receiving money from suspected pirates. Underlying the TCYK/Hatton and Berkeley/Ranger Bay operation are links with notorious copyright troll Patrick Achache, who is up to his neck in copyright litigation in the United States and elsewhere. Robert Croucher has made no secret of his affiliations with Achache, even posing with him for pictures while announcing a copyright troll invasion of the UK last October.
Achache is the one that has been connected to Malibu Media’s previous games of shell companies and outside experts in the past. As with all things Malibu Media, determining exactly how much of a connection there is is a convoluted mess, which is exactly the entire point. As it is with TCYK, which creates layers and layers of parties involved in a simple scheme to scare the hell out of accused infringers, based on IP addresses, while keeping the risk of everything exploding on them at a minimum.
Meanwhile, there are those folks who push back on the activities of copyright trolls, such as UK-based Joe Hickster, who runs ACS Bore blog and was a Techdirt commenter exactly once, as best as I can tell. Hickster produced a flowchart to show exactly how all the players in this scheme are connected, referring to TCYK’s tactics as “smoke and mirrors.” This was done after Robert Croucher piped up on a WhoCallsMe forum claiming that Westone Business Services, which shares its “Director”, Paul Carter, with Hatton & Berkeley. Croucher came on to specifically state that he had no affiliation to Paul Carter, a claim belied by both government records and Hickster’s research. Hickster himself stepped into the forum discussion.
“Seems that CMI Business Group (t/a Hatton & Berkeley) are really a Speculative Invoicing outfit, in association with the notorious Patrick Achache, who assisted ACS:LAW and Tilly Baily Irvine, in their actions in sending thousands of letters to people in the UK demanding money for Pornography or other films and threatening to go to Court if they were not paid,” he said.
From there, Croucher and Hickster go back and forth, with Hickster offering up his evidence and reasoning to suggest that Croucher is both a copyright troll and liar about his business affiliations. Then, suddenly, out come the legal threats from Croucher.
Due to the nature of your defamatory and unsubstantiated remarks above, I shall be seeking legal action against you should this continue,” he said. “You and others have been sending false and defamatory Tweets to myself and worryingly the more junior female members of my staff, this is being reported to the MET Police as it is continued harassment (see Malicious Communications Act 1988),” he told Hickster.
The result of this, of course, is now we’re all sitting around discussing the forum post, Hickster’s accusations and evidence, and the thin-skinned legal bullying attempt by Croucher. All while we again highlight the actions of what for all the world appears to be a copyright troll and its practice for hiding its dealings behind a convoluted mess of companies and partners. Quite a Streisand Effect, I think. As for Hickster’s response to the threats?
“I would not DREAM of harassing, ANY innocent person, whether they are young woman or men or pensioners. I would obviously leave that in [Croucher’s] more than capable hands, he has more experience at doing that than I,” he said.
A defamation suit should open Croucher up to discovery, which is why it probably won’t happen. One can dream, though. Meanwhile, the attempt to silence a critic through legal threats has only amplified the coverage of all of this.