Anti-piracy lawyers "knew letters targeted innocent people"

19 Nov 2010
legal

Legal watchdog claims Davenport Lyons knew innocent people received demands for payment

A pair of lawyers knowingly sent out letters to innocent people as part of their anti-piracy work, a legal watchdog has claimed.

Davenport Lyons issued letters on behalf of rights owners to people accused of pirating content based on IP address data.

The two parters, David Gore and Brian Miller, sent the 6,000 letters on behalf of video games makers, threatening legal action if recipients didn't pay a settlement of £525.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) said last year it would take action against the pair, and has now laid out its case, claiming Gore and Miller were fully aware that the IP data they used to identify accused file-sharers was flawed.

The SRA's filing said the two lawyers "knew that in conducting generic campaigns against those identified as IP holders whose IP numeric had been used for downloading or uploading of material that they might in such generic campaigns be targeting people innocent of any copyright breach."

The watchdog also accuses the Davenport Lyons pair of allowing their independence to be compromised, by turning the letter campaign into a revenue generator rather than a legal case - meaning they acted in their own financial interests instead of their clients.

The lawyers convinced right holders to allow them to act on their behalf by waiving hourly fees and instead taking a cut of the settlements. The pair earned £150,000 of the £370,000 collected from alleged file-sharers.

Because they were looking to recoup their own costs, the lawyers ignored clients' concerns about the negative publicity the letter campaign could - and eventually did - cause, the SRA claimed.

The SRA said the lawyers persisted with the letters against the advice of their own counsel, and "despite knowing that disquiet was being caused by their campaign, and that they might be targeting innocent individuals."

The case will be heard in May next year. Davenport Lyons has since stopped the practice, and another firm, ACS:Law also faces SRA action.

Read this month's PC Pro for a full investigation into the evidence used by file-sharing lawyers.

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