The UK Consumer advocacy group Which? has filed a complaint with the Solicitors Regulatory Authority about the activities of UK legal firm Davenport Lyons, who have been sending threatening letters to individuals accused of illegally downloading movies and games.
This is welcome news, as in many cases individuals appear to be wrongly accused, and the overall strategy appears to be to obtain a users ID from the ISP (based upon logged IP addresses) and to pitch the demand at a level below that which would justify paying for legal advice and above that which would just be ignored by the recipient. In most cases this is around £500. The internet is full of postings from outraged internet users, many claiming innocence. Furthermore, it’s clear from online news reports that whatever method Davenport Lyons’ technical advisers are using to identify downloaders is rather suspect – not least because most domestic broadbad users have dynamic IP addresses. One example is that of an elederly couple accused by Davenport Lyons of downloading a hardcore gay porn movie. It seems likely that in many cases, the accusation arises from unsecured wireless networks.
The general approach seems to mirror the aggressive tactics of the RIAA in the USA, which have received extensive coverage in the online news services (for example this report at Ars Technica).
Hopefully the Which? action will either stop Davenport Lyons sending these demands, or at the very least coerce them into using more appropriate mechanisms of identifying copyright infringers (actually one that works reliably would be good). In the meantime, Davenport Lyons may be feeling the heat, as they’ve released this press release on their website (pdf).