Davenport Lyons Lawyers Referred To Disciplinary Tribunal Over 'Pay Up Or We'll Sue' Copyright Threat Letters

from the shakedown dept

A few years back, UK law firm Davenport Lyons made a splash by sending out a ton of "pre-settlement" letters to people accused of file sharing, threatening to sue them if they didn't pay a few hundred pounds. The law firm used a default judgment (i.e., a case where the defendant didn't show up) to claim that it had the law on its side and would sue and win. Of course, an investigation into the thousands of letters being sent found that plenty of innocent bystanders were being sent those letters as well -- which certainly raised all sorts of questions about the legitimacy of the effort. The negative publicity resulted in some high profile Davenport Lyons customers backing out of their relationship, and eventually a new entity called ACS:Law to pop up to continue the effort -- though, an investigation found that the documents used by ACS:law were created by Davenport Lyons.

Despite many calls for sanctions against the lawyers for taking part in an effort that has remarkable similarities to a traditional shakedown scheme, there had been little response from regulators. However Marcus alerts us to the news that two Davenport Lyons lawyers have now been referred to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. I'm not quite sure how this process works in the UK, but it seems like it's about time that someone was checking in on these activities.
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Filed Under: file sharing, lawyers, sanctions
Companies: acs: law, davenport lyons

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  1. identicon
    Joseph Young, 16 Mar 2010 @ 8:17pm

    A slap on the wrists

    I think the worst that could happen to David Gore and Brian Miller is that they’re told not to do it again and made to pay costs. Being told not to do something you stopped doing a long time ago isn’t much of a sanction. I suppose they could receive a small fine. However, the letters sent out by Davenport Lyons were much more carefully worded than those from ACS:Law. While forceful, they didn’t over state the case to the same degree that ACS:Law have. The tribunal may not find against them.

    While I believe champerty is still a criminal offence in Germany, it was decriminalised a few decades ago in the UK, just as it was in the US. It’s just another regulatory matter. In the leaked letter from Kornmeier & Partner to Davenport Lyons, Kornmeier & Partner appear to admit to entering into a champertous contract with DigiProtect over contentious matters. Even if it turns out that Davenport Lyons followed that proposal and funded the court action themselves for the four or five cases that went to court, of which Miss Barwinska’s was the most high profile, I don’t think things will be that much worse for Gore and Miller.

    It’s ACS:Law and now Tilly Bailey & Irvine whom action needs to be taken against. Andrew Crossley, the sole principal at ACS:Law, has form (PDF) with the SRA, although regarding unrelated conduct.

    Last Monday, the BBC’s mainstream current affairs programme, Panorama, covered the possible consequences of the Digital Economy Bill. The episode has been variously panned by the online technology press and activists, but I thought it was a pretty good attempt considering the intended audience and the thirty-minute programme length.

    The BBC has already got into trouble over impartiality due to a piece by Mark Thomas in their arts programme, The Culture Show, that had previously covered the Digital Economy Bill. But, you could tell during the Panorama programme that the BBC were doing their best to convey their views subliminally. Of all the pirates they spoke to, David Pomfret wasn’t one of them. He was on the receiving end of one of these legal nastygrams, making a false accusation that he’d file-shared Scooter’s Jumping All Over the World. All the pirates had two legs. Mr Pomfret, while not a pirate, was the only person with just one. And, to drive home this point, clips of Mr Pomfret hopping on his crutches were interspersed with clips from Scooter’s video for Jumping All Over the World containing their distinctive Jumpstyle dancing.

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