Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
copyright, defamation, libel tourism, section 230

acs:law, slyck

ACS:Law Now Using Dubious Legal Theories To Threaten

from the keep-digging dept

Just last week, we were talking about how UK firm ACS:Law, who has been condemned by UK politicians and ISPs, was still pushing forward with its efforts to send out tens of thousands of threatening "pre-settlement" letters. These letters attempt to scare recipients into paying up to avoid a potential (though rarely filed) lawsuit claiming copyright infringement, based on quite weak evidence (an IP address collected by DigiProtect after DigiProtect purposely puts a file online). The whole thing has been called a "scam" by Lord Lucas in the UK, and lawyers at the firm that initiated this practice, Davenport Lyons (and who apparently provided ACS:Law with its original documents) were recently referred to a disciplinary committee by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority claim that it's also investigating ACS:Law, and they may now have one more thing to investigate. It appears that ACS:Law's latest move is to threaten the US-based blog with a defamation lawsuit, based on some of the comments in Slyck's forums. For a variety of reasons, this threat was entirely groundless. First, it seems that the comments in question were joking statements of opinion, rather than actual libel -- such as calling ACS:Law's plan a "wank plan." How is that libelous?

Second, of course, Slyck is based in New York, and is protected from defamation suits based on comments by its users thanks to Section 230 of the CDA. Furthermore, Slyck has even greater protections thanks to New York's own anti-libel tourism statute, the Libel Terrorism Protection Act, which makes libel lawsuits in foreign countries against US journalists unenforceable. The good folks at the EFF have stepped up to support Slyck in responding to ACS:Law, and it appears that, for the time being, ACS:Law has gone quiet.

Of course, in theory, ACS:Law could push forward against Slyck anyway, and could potentially win in the UK. But given the mass scorn being heaped upon ACS:Law right now in the UK, combined with a recent push in the UK to rewrite defamation laws to prevent these sorts of questionable lawsuits, if ACS:Law does decide to push forward, it may find that the backlash is a lot more damaging than some anonymous person in a forum calling its plan a wank plan.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. icon
    Dementia (profile), Mar 22nd, 2010 @ 4:40am

    Let them try and enjoy the full Streisand Effect.

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

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2010 @ 4:45am

    If a commoner were to perpetrate s scam, they would be in the slam straightaway.

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

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2010 @ 5:06am

    location, location, location

    It only makes sense to sue someone for libel if you can subsequently enforce the action. It is difficult to see how a UK based firm can bring a UK case against a US based company that has no presence in the UK. As a civil case, there is no prospect of extradition or similar. It is also unlikely that any people travelling to the UK would be picked up and arrested. I don't think that happens for libel.

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

  4. icon
    ethorad (profile), Mar 22nd, 2010 @ 5:42am

    lost in translation

    I'm guessing the different meanings of the word wank could be causing problems. In the US, I think the term wank can be taken to mean mildly derogatory managementspeak. Here in the UK however it always refers to something rather different.

    Of course, given the general reprehensibility of ACS:Law's bullying I wouldn't be suprised if it was intended to be the "UK meaning" if you will.

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

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2010 @ 5:50am

    I also received a letter from ACS:Law over alleged filesharing. By taking advice and other's help and posts from the slyck forums, I wrote a letter, citing that they had no case in relation to the CDPA 1996 (a UK copyright act), and also that if any further discourse was entered into I would enter a counter-claim (as a layperson in the UK you are entitled to) for my time- 50 GBP per correspondence. This was 18 months ago. I havent heard a peep from these crooks since ha!

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

  6. icon
    WammerJammer (profile), Mar 22nd, 2010 @ 6:10am


    Woogies for the Wankers!!

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

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2010 @ 8:21am

    Re: lost in translation

    So they don't like the words jerk off referring to their plan? Best they not go to any elementary (K-8) schoolyard in the US because they will hear it all the time.

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

  8. identicon
    Flakey, Mar 22nd, 2010 @ 8:36am


    Over at Torrentfreak, they are reporting on the same incident and referring back to Slyck. I went to Slyck earlier where all documents involved in this are downloadable (I would imagine much to the dismay of ACS:Law).

    At Torrentfreak to assist in the Streisand Effect, someone there is compiling a torrent of all this to feed out on the torrent sites. This is sure, if it is picked up by the torrent community, to bring the Streisand Effect into full bloom. The only question is, will the torrent community be enraged enough to follow through with a net-roots type response?

    You will pardon that I have not supplied links to the above mentioned sites. They are popular enough to be readily found if you are seeking them through simple search.

    ACS:Law has become the synonym for sleezy law practices. Davenport/Lyons who originally was doing them appears to have set up ACS:Law to continue with what is evidently a lucrative practice with hopes of shedding the bad PR that comes with it. According to the Slyck article, some of Davenport/Lyons employees have been seen in court at ACS:Law cases so the tie is there and strongly.

    It is practices like this that forward the lawyer jokes with evil malice among the public.

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

  9. icon (profile), Mar 23rd, 2010 @ 9:13am

    All the idiots at ACS law are a bunch of wankers.

    (There ya go ACS,I said it, now send a nastygram to TD, go on,I dare ya... else all of you were born outside of wedlock.)

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

  10. identicon
    Christopher, Mar 24th, 2010 @ 11:03am

    This is not surprising in the slightest

    Most of these cases are the epitome of attempted legal blackmail, because to defend against one of these cases costs nearly 10 times what these people are asking for.

    We really need to have the maximum judgment for one of these cases down to where someone can challenge it without it bankrupting them or costing them more than just settling the case, both in the UK and the US.

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

  11. identicon
    Hickster, Mar 26th, 2010 @ 12:43pm


    I know I should NOT have called Terence Tsang or any of the other people at ACS LAW "Wankers" I apologise, what I meant to call them were "Shysters" there I hope that is better!

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

  12. identicon
    Hickster, Mar 26th, 2010 @ 12:45pm

    Re: Oops

    shy·ster (shstr)
    n. Slang
    An unethical, unscrupulous practitioner, especially of law

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

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