Police Allowed To Hang Onto Seized Computers For Anti-Piracy Group, Despite No Gov't Prosecution

from the that's-bad dept

We were just noting that the IFPI thinks it's going to start seizing computers directly to get evidence of unauthorized file sharing, and wondering how that would work. At least in the UK, they may have just received some legal support. Over the summer, we wondered why an anti-piracy group in the UK was given access to and allowed to keep computers from a criminal investigation into an online service, called Surfthechannel, accused of unauthorized file sharing. The police seized the computers, but decided not to pursue criminal charges. It never made much sense that private, industry-backed anti-piracy group FACT was a major part of the criminal investigation, as they're quite the biased party. They were given seized computers as a part of this investigation -- and once the police decided not to pursue criminal charges, FACT kept the machines, saying it was considering a civil suit. However, the lawyers for Surfthechannel noted that the police and FACT had no right to keep the seized machines after the decision was made not to pursue criminal charges.

Apparently (and unfortunately) a judge disagrees. A reader alerts us (via comments on a totally separate story, rather than a submission -- not sure why) to the news that the judge in the case has said that police have every right to retain seized computers, even after they've decided not to pursue criminal charges. The judges noted that the law allows police the retain anything seized "so long as is necessary in all the circumstances" and then ruled that the potential of a civil suit from FACT was one of those "circumstances" that qualified. It's difficult to see how that makes any sense, but so ruled the court.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Nov 13th, 2009 @ 6:03am

    When I was in law school my international law class was taught by a very nice french lady who despised common law legal systems. She constantly raved how most of Europe used a much more efficient civil law system where courts never had to interpret the law, they simply followed the law.

    I can't help but wonder which law specifically says that the police can randomly seize and keep property "so long as is necessary in all the circumstances."

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 13th, 2009 @ 6:08am

    Re:

    UK uses a common law legal system though.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 13th, 2009 @ 6:10am

    Similar things happen with cars, homes, and just about any other items of interest. If you are unlucky and your car happens to the scene of a crime (someone is shot outside your car, blod splatters on the bumper) the car can be seized and it is often difficult if not impossible to get the car back in a timely manner.

    Ima Fish, I that that the original seizure was done under court order, which would indicate that there was enough valid information for a court to order such a seizure. Thus, it isn't "random", but rather with a court order. In other words, there are no jack booted thugs randomly bursting into houses to take computers without reason and handing them over to FACT (or anyone else).

     

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  4.  
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    PaulT (profile), Nov 13th, 2009 @ 6:11am

    Re:

    Doesn't the UK use common law? I'm pretty sure it does.

     

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  5.  
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    Imnot Suprised, Nov 13th, 2009 @ 6:25am

    Why?

    Why does this suprise anyone? The governments of the world are controlled by corporations - corporations that put money (directly or indirectly) into the pockets of politicians.

    Governments are corrupt and are to be feared. They will not hesitate to trample you underfoot to proponent their private (read: corporate sponsered) agenda.

    Sad, but true.

     

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  6.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Nov 13th, 2009 @ 6:45am

    Re: Re:

    Damn, I should learn to read. For some bizarre reason I thought this was happening in Sweden.

     

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  7.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Nov 13th, 2009 @ 6:46am

    Re: Re:

    Yeah, I'm an idiot. See above. Thanks!

     

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  8.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Nov 13th, 2009 @ 6:47am

    Re:

    "Similar things happen with cars, homes, and just about any other items of interest. If you are unlucky and your car happens to the scene of a crime (someone is shot outside your car, blod splatters on the bumper) the car can be seized and it is often difficult if not impossible to get the car back in a timely manner."

    That's absolutely true, but once criminal charges are no longer forthcoming, parties are able to retrieve their property. As long as charges are being considered, the authorities can keep them, but after that they have to give them back, at least in America.

    It's difficult to understand how a private entity, like a trade organization, can be allowed to retain another person's property simply because they're CONSIDERING a civil trial. It's civil, so evidentiary procedures like chain of evidence don't really apply, nor do, I believe, rules of discovery. So, again, where in the law does it say one private entity can sieze and retain another's property simply because they're considering civil litigation?

     

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  9.  
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    RD, Nov 13th, 2009 @ 6:58am

    UK, not US (so far...)

    This is the kind of Muppet Nation(tm) that the UK is turning into, with an almost complete subversion of individual rights to the state/corporation. The stories I read about topics like this on sites like The Register and others is downright scary, and is starting to make people wistfully pine for Stalinist Russia as the "good old days". It is not nearly this bad here in the USA, so far, but dont be too surprised if the insanity you see in the UK is just a precourser of things to come.

     

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  10.  
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    Overcast (profile), Nov 13th, 2009 @ 6:59am

    How nice of them. Guilty until proven... well.. it doesn't matter, we're keeping your stuff anyway.

    Back to the days of Longshanks, huh?!

     

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  11.  
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    Designerfx (profile), Nov 13th, 2009 @ 7:07am

    Re: Re:

    if I recall correctly, parties often have to sue to retrieve property after charges are dropped, because the police are lazy as hell about this. I recall something about someone who had a server seized supposedly for illegal crap and then 5 years later they gave it back, at which point it was useless.

     

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  12.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Nov 13th, 2009 @ 7:15am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Hm, I thought that was only if they want back property siezed in a criminal investigation and not returned within the allotted time. I'm getting this from what I've read on the Drew Peterson case....

     

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  13.  
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    CastorTroy-Libertarian, Nov 13th, 2009 @ 7:17am

    But i can just see how it would work if FACT or some other idiot Piracy group said we can seize computers in the US... I am from from **AA and we think your a pirate, hand over the computer... NO... WE have the right... NO... Give us the computer or we call the cops... NO, Arrrggh me mates to the sheets and lets keel haul the lot of them...

    Sorry i just have visions of that one ending badly... and funny... for some reason every time i try to visualize it a rope appears the the "suspected pirate" has cutlass and swings in to lop the heads off... anti-piracy goup insert name here hechmen... I have issues...

     

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  14.  
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    Call me Al, Nov 13th, 2009 @ 7:30am

    Almost everytime I hear something about the actions of the UK police, judiciary or politicians I become more convinced that the whole lot of them are morally bankrupt.

     

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  15.  
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    Sergio, Nov 13th, 2009 @ 7:36am

    Born in the wrong time

    The next generation is going to look back at things like this and think "Wow, what a bunch of idiots."

     

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  16.  
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    interval, Nov 13th, 2009 @ 8:04am

    Re:

    That's funny because Napoleonic Code (the legal system in France) is one of the most f'd up systems around. An inspector can be a judge, and a judge can be a prosecutor, and talk about bias in the courtroom...

     

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  17.  
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    Free Capitalist (profile), Nov 13th, 2009 @ 8:09am

    Re:

    Back to the days of Longshanks, huh?!


    Update to Braveheart:
    "The problem with the Internet, is that its full of users."

     

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  18.  
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    Chris-Mouse (profile), Nov 13th, 2009 @ 8:35am

    Re: Re:

    That's absolutely true, but once criminal charges are no longer forthcoming, parties are able to retrieve their property. As long as charges are being considered, the authorities can keep them, but after that they have to give them back, at least in America.
    Umm no, that's not the case. Check out this article from the Detroit area... The Detroit News

     

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  19.  
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    Adub, Nov 13th, 2009 @ 8:38am

    Two Comments

    I know someone who had a .22 rifle seized when police were called to a domestic dispute. No one was arrested or charged, the rifle was not used in the dispute, but was in plain sight, so they seized it. It took almost two years to get it back...with the help of a friend who worked for the sheriffs dept.

    I know someone who had his computer seized by the FBI. He was trying to get a job with the FBI and made it to the polygraph portion of the application process, which is really good. I won't go into detail about it because frankly, the FBI scares the hell out of me. Basically, they went into his apartment and took his computer (without a warrant) while he was still in the interview. It took about a month for him to get it back and he was also advised to file charges. He did nothing wrong.

    The US government does this all the time.

     

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  20.  
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    taoareyou, Nov 13th, 2009 @ 8:44am

    Does the UK law allow the police to seize property, then turn that property over to a private party and allow that private party to keep said "evidence" until such time they decide they may want to file a civil action?

    So basically any private party can accuse another private party of something and have the accused's property taken by force and turned over to the accuser without the need of any criminal act?

     

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  21.  
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    sysadmn (profile), Nov 13th, 2009 @ 8:49am

    Fair is Fair

    So if the alleged Pirates want to countersue, and claim that the "private, industry-backed anti-piracy group FACT" engaged in criminal conduct (perhaps by making fraudulent claims to the police in the course of the "assistance"), can they get the police to seize FACT's computers?

    It seems only fair, and there is a delightful irony in using the same tactics in reply. Perhaps Surfthechannel could use the BSA's tactics and offer a cash reward to former FACT employees to report illegal conduct ;-)


    Dark Helmet - we Americans have a much more obscene variant of the law that allows the police to seize property alleged to be associated with criminal activity and sell it, keeping the proceeds. No criminal charges are filed, and the 'target' of the seizure is the property, not the owner, sidestepping many constitutional protections.
    http://www.isil.org/resources/lit/looting-of-america.html
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asset_forf eiture

     

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  22.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Nov 13th, 2009 @ 8:57am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Nice, and thanks for the link. I'll check that out. Hate it when I'm wrong...

     

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  23.  
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    The Infamous Joe (profile), Nov 13th, 2009 @ 9:41am

    Re:

    So basically any private party can accuse another private party of something and have the accused's property taken by force and turned over to the accuser without the need of any criminal act?

    Any *wealthy and well connected* private party can, yes. If you tried it on them, I suspect it wouldn't work out so well.

     

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  24.  
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    Nick, Nov 13th, 2009 @ 9:49am

    common law / civil Law

    The UK does have common law, as does the US (except Louisiana that got its code from the French). Europe has Civil law inherited from the French. Civil law gets criticised because no one has the pewer to interpret it and it can go out of date and be irrelevent (France and internet / copyright law anyone?). Common law has its own issues and this is one of them. In common law judges interpret the law based on previous cases. If FACT could successfully argue that a precedent existed to keep the kit (ie someone in a vaguely related case of the police / anyone else keeping seized kit) then that is the way the judge should rule. Obviously this will be appealed and part of that will be an application to set a new precident which the appeals court will consider.

    This could technically happen anywhere where common law exists and where one party has a good enough barrister to argue the case. Given the number of questionable decisions Mike reports on in US courts I am sure that there are US judges capable of make this monumentally bad (and I do agree it is) decision given the quality of judgements that come out of the US from time to time...

     

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  25.  
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    Daemon_ZOGG (profile), Nov 13th, 2009 @ 9:52am

    FASCIST PIGS!! (..refering to the judge and the coppers)

    As for the IFPI we already know about their MAFIA Activities!
    " }:> "

     

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  26.  
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    Dementia (profile), Nov 13th, 2009 @ 10:03am

    Re:

    Let me just say that if anyone shows up to my house, without a warrant, insisting they have a right to seize my property, they will be met with whatever force I feel necessary to defend my home, family, and property.

     

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  27.  
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    Adub, Nov 13th, 2009 @ 10:54am

    Re: Dementia

    "...they will be met with whatever force I feel necessary to defend my home, family, and property."

    And you would be correct in doing so, but unfortunately, history paints a different picture. You would go down in a hail of gunfire and then be made out to be some crack-pot and/or terrorist when all you were doing was protecting your home.

     

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  28.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Nov 13th, 2009 @ 11:09am

    Re: Re: Dementia

    "And you would be correct in doing so, but unfortunately, history paints a different picture. You would go down in a hail of gunfire and then be made out to be some crack-pot and/or terrorist when all you were doing was protecting your home."

    I think it's fairly common knowledge that Dementia is a puppy-kicking, nun-slapping raporist....

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2009 @ 3:34am

    It makes perfect sense, when judgments are bought and paid for.

     

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  30.  
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    blahblah, Nov 28th, 2009 @ 7:14am

    POLICE FRAME PEOPLE TO COVER UP

    Apparantly I was told by a once serving police officer that the tech unit have a specialist software called a "TORPAEDO" which they can use to download onto someones computer and frame them for having indecent images. the software embedds images at various intervals throughout the pcs memory making it look like the material has been collected over a period of time instead of only just downloaded. I believe they used this software on those muslim guys when they broke into their homes and shot one of them. They use it as a bartering system for cover ups. OOOps sorry we f***d up, tell ya what dont say anything and we wont frame you. LOL Jesus, german jack boots are still in England. Rest assured, if you have a dispute with the police, they will illegally seize your laptop or pc and put whatever they want on it. Porn, Terrorist software, whatever the situation calls for.

     

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  31.  
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    Tringula Dating, Dec 16th, 2009 @ 4:31am

    Good work done by Police

    For free online dating services website you can visit there on tringuladating a free online dating services website, where you can register for free and can send dating or friendship proposals.

     

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  32.  
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    Assignment Help, Dec 16th, 2009 @ 4:36am

    Good work done by Police

    For your Assignment Help you can visit there on Locus Rags. A home work assignment helpp website for students and for study

     

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

  33.  
    identicon
    Assignment Help, Jan 31st, 2010 @ 7:38pm

    Assignment Help

    Worrying about your assignments? Pressure from job? No problems we will help you! We provide assignment help services to students in university and colleges. Our online assignment help is the best and our online assignment writersonline assignment writers always fetch A+ grades.

     

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

  34.  
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    Barbara UK, Scotland, Apr 20th, 2012 @ 11:35am

    Wrongly Seized PC's :( WHEN do we get them back?? UK

    Policed seized mine and my dad's PC's in a big CID raid. We were WRONGLY accused of downloading indecent images. We were NOT actually arrested, but both interrogated badly and locked in a police cell to - assist with their inquiries. I took an angina attack (aged 42) as a result of this and my dad's a frail pensioner - from a devout church going family.

    This will be 12 months ago in May. No charges were ever brought and we were released from custody within about 12 hours. BUT they shouted at me, that they were going to pin this on someone and it looked like me. They ALSO got my email address WRONG in interrogation, saying it was a .com, when it's a .co.uk.

    How long can they KEEP our property??? Which included mobile phones, disks, PC games, lap top, 2 net books, and my uncle's camera. They also caused damage during the raid, which was filmed, and they even FILMED me during my angina attack. The Paramedics ordered them to stop as they proceeded to film me TOPLESS, during treatment!!!

    Can a lawyer get a court order to get our stuff back??? Though we had to buy a new PC and lap top so that we could resume our lives. Our lawyer keeps pestering them for our things but they ignore his letters, or say they have a right to keep it indefinitely.

    I am VERY angry at the Police treatment and cruel handling of the case, where they have found NOTHING of the nature they were looking for. Both mine AND my dad's health has suffered, and I had to give up my voluntarily work, as it involved duties with the police, of which I am now terrified of.

    Also how do I go about putting in a complaint about the plain clothes police involved in the raid and case? They were nasty and it was handled very badly!! My dad and I wish to air our displeasure legally.

    Thank you for any help

    Babs

     

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  35.  
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    test, Nov 17th, 2012 @ 7:56am

    The answser lies here :
    I ask that at the conclusion of any court case, an
    application is made under Sec 43(1) of the Criminal Courts Act 1973 for an order to be made
    for the forfeiture of any computer equipment and compact disks used during the commission
    of the offences charged.

    It is further requested that this equipment to be forfeited and allowed used by the Police within
    their role of tackling Crime, Computer Crime and Internet Crime.

     

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


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