BT, the UK's largest broadband provider, sent details about its customers to ACS:Law, the firm of London solicitors at the centre of a huge data
privacy row, in a form that could be read by anyone and which have now spilt onto the web.
BT can confirm that it did send unencrypted data to ACS:Law, a BT spokeswoman told the Guardian: However, this was not the cause of the leak. At a later date, due to a cyber-attack on the systems of the law firm, data that it held was leaked.
At this time we do not believe any of BT's customers details have been compromised, although we are continuing to pressure ACS Law for confirmation of this. We were obliged to comply with court orders to provide information to ACS Law, as was any
other ISP, where they were served with such orders.
Due to serious concerns about the integrity of the process that is being used by rights holders, we will resist efforts to share more customer details with rights holders and those acting on their behalf until we can be sure that alleged copyright
infringements have some basis and customers are treated fairly.
The case has brought rows over the standards of evidence required under the Digital Economy Act under which persistent file-sharers could face restrictions on their internet connection into sharp focus.
ACS:Law's evidence would be sufficient under the new regime being brought in by the act to count as a first strike which would involve a warning letter from the customer's ISP. But pressure groups opposed to the DEA say that the quality of
evidence acceptable under the act for such measures falls far below that which would be needed to prove a case in court.
Privacy International is seeking legal advice about the possibility of bringing charges against BT for contempt of court. Hanff said the breach by BT appeared to contravene the Norwich Pharmeceutical Order which requires data to be sent as encrypted
Microsoft Excel files.
ACS:Law already faces the prospect of a fine of up to £500,000 if the Information Commissioner determines that it was responsible for the data leak. The Information Commissioner has said he will include BT's handling of data which may leave the
company in breach of the Data Protection Act and a high court order in its investigation into how the information was made publicly available.
The personal details of more than 8,000 Sky broadband customers, 400 Plusnet customers and 5,000 other Britons accused of illicit filesharing were exposed on the website of ACS:Law, a legal firm which has been targeted by online attacks from a number of
online forums due to its involvement in moves against people alleged to have shared copyrighted content.
ACS:Law would typically write to customers whose details it had obtained and demand payments of between £500 and £700 for the alleged breaches of copyright. Although some people did pay the demands, many others ignored them. Few of the cases
are understood to have reached court.
Andrew Heaney, executive director of strategy and regulation at Talk Talk, said: It's a stark reminder of the dangers of giving out customer details to third parties in trying to combat file sharing. While we do not condone illegal file sharing, we
have consistently argued for better ways of combating copyright theft. Handing over customer details to law firms to seek 'compensation', based on accusations from rights holders, is not the answer.
The Guardian understands that ISPs charge ACS:Law around £65 for an individual customer's information. Some broadband providers charge by the hour to supply customer data some thought to be charging up to £500 per hour while others fix
prices to a per-customer basis.
The anti-piracy law firm ACS:Law accidentally published its entire email archive online, effectively revealing how the company managed to extract over a million dollars (£636,758.22) from alleged file-sharers since its operation started. On
average, 30% of the victims who were targeted paid up, and this money was divided between the law firm, the copyright holder and the monitoring company.
Right before the weekend the notorious ACS:Law managed to expose backups of its entire website and email database to the outside world. Hundreds of people have meanwhile started to dissect the contents of the mails, and are sharing their findings in
forums and in comments posted online.
The emails also shed a whole new light on the effectiveness of the letters of claim that are being sent out to thousands of BitTorrent users and how the recouped money was divided.
Over the last two years 11,367 letters have been sent out. In 40% of the cases the respondents never replied, and another 30% disputed their claim. This means that on average 30% of the accused file-sharers chose to settle by paying between £350
and £700 per infringement allegation.
The recouped money is generally divided between three parties. The law firm, the copyright holder and the monitoring company that provided IP addresses of alleged infringers.
Documents in the leak also show ACS:Law admitting that they asked for a settlement of £495 in order to break the psychological £500 barrier to maximize revenues.
A Madrid court has thrown out copyright infringement charges brought against Google's YouTube by Spanish TV station Telecinco.
The court dismissed charges and found it the responsibility of copyright owners to guard their own intellectual property and inform Google when it is infringing copyright.
The judgement, translated by AFP, said it was impossible to control all the videos that are made available to users, as there are in fact more than 500 million. YouTube is not a supplier of content and therefore has no obligation to control ex-ante
the illegality of those.
YouTube's chief European spin doctor said in a blog post that it was a big win for the internet . He said the court noted that YouTube offers content owners tools to remove copyright infringing content and this means that it is the
responsibility of the copyright owner not YouTube to identify and tell YouTube when infringing content is on its website. This decision reaffirms European law which recognizes that content owners (not service providers like YouTube) are in the best
position to know whether a specific work is authorised to be on an Internet hosting service...
A group of senators want to hand the U.S. Department of Justice the power to shut down Web sites dedicated to the illegal sharing online of
film, music, software, and other intellectual property.
The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act will give the Department of Justice an expedited process for cracking down on these rogue Web sites regardless of whether the Web site's owner is located inside or outside of the United States,
according to a statement from Senator Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and committee member Senator Orin Hatch.
Under the proposed legislation, the Justice Department would file a civil action against accused pirate domain names. If the domain name resides in the U.S., the attorney general could then request that the court issue an order finding that the domain
name in question is dedicated to infringing activities. The Justice Department would have the authority to serve the accused site's U.S.-based registrar with an order to shut down the site.
According to a staffer from Leahy's office, if the site resides outside the United States, the bill would authorize the attorney general to serve the court order on other specified third parties, such as Internet service providers, payment processors,
and online ad network providers.
The way it sounds, the Justice Department would try to block these sites from being accessed by people in the United States or cut them off from credit card transactions or receiving ad revenue from U.S. companies.
Software company Autodesk can stop a man from re-selling second-hand copies of its software because the programs are licensed to users, not owned by them, a US appeals court has ruled.
Software producers who clearly impose restrictions on buyers and make it clear that buyers are only licensing material rather than buying it outright do have the right to restrict second hand sales of the material, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth
Circuit has said.
Autodesk is involved in a long-running legal dispute with Timothy Vernor, who sells goods on auction site eBay. He bought second hand versions of Autodesk's architectural drawing software from a company and made them available for sale on eBay, but
Autodesk made repeated claims that this infringed its copyright.
Vernor's eBay account was eventually suspended, leading him to take a case to the courts, asking a judge to declare his activity lawful.
A US District Court agreed with Vernor, saying that a previous case involving film prints lent to actress Vanessa Redgrave, the Wise case, set a precedent that transferred material could be owned by the person to whom it was given.
The Court of Appeals disagreed, and said that the Wise case did not mean, as the lower court had said, that any agreement which allows a person to keep a copy of copyrighted material was a sale rather than a transfer of a licence.
377 members of the European Parliament adopted a written declaration on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA)
in which they demand greater transparency, assert that ISPs should not up end being liable for data sent through their networks, and say that ACTA should not force limitations upon judicial due process or weaken fundamental rights such as freedom of
expression and the right to privacy.
The written declaration has no binding force but the declaration does give the ACTA negotiators a sense of the parliamentary will; in this case, Parliament has many concerns about both substance and process.
Some of these have already been addressed; the most recent leaked ACTA draft shows that ISP liability has been removed, for instance. Others, like concerns of access to medicines, especially those in transit from countries with looser patent systems,
continue to be areas of concernand have been for some time.
La Quadrature du Net, a French group that heavily backed the declaration, sees it as a sign that ACTA is doomed. Written Declaration 12 is a strong political signal sent by the EP to the Commission that ACTA is not tolerable as a way of bypassing
democratic processes. Legislation related to Internet, freedom of speech and privacy cannot be negotiated in secrecy under the direct influence of entertainment industry lobbies, said spokesperson Jérémie Zimmermann.
A hearing to decide the fate of the X3JailBreak PS3 mod chip in an Australian court has found Sony victorious. The court ruled that
the security circumvention device for the PS3 does harm to Sony's business. In line with that decision, the court put a permanent injunction on the sale of the product in Australia and ordered retailers and resellers to remove the device from store
shelves and turn over any profits made from it to Sony.
Andrew Robinson has resigned from his position as the leader of the UK's Pirate Party, slightly over a year since the party was founded and in the wake of relatively weak results in 2010's general election.
He made the announcement in a blog post listing the achievements of the party over the last year, including an invitation from OfCom to work with them on the implementation of the Digital Economy Act, and formation of a political party from what
began as a subforum of Pirate Party International's messageboards.
The party stands for three main issues: significant reform of copyright and patent law including the legalisation of non-commercial filesharing, increased privacy and reduced surveillance from both the government and businesses, and a guarantee of
free speech for everyone.
In a blog post, Robinson said: When the party started out we needed someone who was prepared to do everything that wasn't being done by someone else, and to be a peacemaker between different internal factions. Now we need a leader who can
consolidate on the work we've done so far, and do a job that involves a lot more dealing with the media and talking to the membership on the forums, and a lot less time smoothing out internal management issues, designing adverts, sourcing
suppliers and so on.
The party has now opened up nominations for the position on its messageboard.
A High Court has ruled that devices that allow gamers to play pirated video games are illegal in the UK.
The ruling specifically targets the R4 range of devices which can be used to store and play copied games on the Nintedo DS handheld console.
The ruling says game copiers are illegal to import, advertise and sell in the UK.
The defendants - Playables Limited and Wai Dat Chan - had argued that they allow gamers to play home-made games.
The mere fact that the device can be used for a non-infringing purpose is not a defence, read the ruling by Justice Floyd. Related stories
Nintendo said it was pleased that the court was not persuaded by the defendant's arguments, claiming that game copiers are lawful, as they allow for the play of 'homebrew' applications . The court affirmed that game copiers first
circumvent Nintendo's security systems before any non-infringing application can be played on Nintendo's handheld products, it said in a statement.
Game copiers are designed to fit into the game cartridge of Nintendo's DS. Games can then be loaded from memory cards. The chips circumvent the protection measures Nintendo has built into its DS consoles, enabling illegally pirated games to be
downloaded online and stored on a chip. Other gamers use them to store and load homemade games or, as they can hold multiple games, to store their entire collection of titles in a portable format.
Nintendo has evealed that France has made selling R4 devices illegal.
Other European nations where R4 devices are illegal include the UK, German, Italy, Belgium, and the Netherlands.
According to an official release, the Paris Court of Appeals ruled against five R4 sellers and distributors. Criminal fines were over EUR460,000, and damages payable to Nintendo reached the tune of EUR4.8 million plus. Some of the retailers were
even struck with suspended jail sentences.
The degree of secrecy surrounding the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) has reached a worrying new
height. Pirate Party MEP Christian Engstrom saw himself forced to leave a meeting with ACTA negotiators in the European Parliament after he was forbidden from sharing information with the public.
ACTA is an international agreement that aims to target piracy and counterfeiting globally. The secrecy surrounding the negotiations is astonishing. It became clear that even elected representatives at the European Parliament are not allowed to
share ACTA-related information with their voters.
Following the latest round of ACTA negotiations in Lucerne, Switzerland, the Commission's negotiators came to the European Parliament to give an update on ACTA's progress. True to the secrecy surrounding most ACTA meetings, the gathering was
closed to the public.
Pirate Party MEP Christian Engstrom was also invited to join, and at the meeting he asked if this secret setup also meant that he wasn't allowed to share any of the information with the public.
At first the Commission seemed unwilling to answer this question with a straight yes or no, but after I had repeated the question a number of times, they finally came out and said that I would not be allowed to spread the information given,
Like many others, Engstrom fails to see the benefit of keeping information from the public. There is no sensible reason why the ACTA negotiations should be carried out in secret, or why Members of the European Parliament should not be allowed
to discuss information about ACTA with their constituents. In a democracy, new laws should be made by the elected representatives after an open public debate. They should not be negotiated behind closed doors by unelected officials at the
Commission, in an attempt to keep the citizens out of the process until it is too late.
Following revelations from a leaked ACTA document that participating countries would be expected to bring in a system of monetary
fines and jail sentences for those who share files without authorization, the UK has ruled out such a response.
The UK government has announced that it feels such penalties are inappropriate for dealing with minor copyright infringers.
A leaked ACTA document published by citizen advocacy group La Quadrature du Net revealed the intention to introduce criminal sanctions into the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) for file-sharing offenses.
The ACTA Chapter 2 Criminal Provisions document (.pdf) stated that each party shall provide for effective proportionate and dissuasive penalties to include imprisonment and monetary fines .
Jérémie Zimmermann, spokesperson for La Quadrature du Net said: The leaked document shows that the EU Member States are willing to impose prison sanctions for non-commercial usages of copyrighted works on the Internet as well as
for 'inciting and aiding', a notion so broad that it could cover any Internet service or speech questioning copyright policies.
As noted by Zimmermann, the ACTA text includes proposals to apply criminal sanctions to infringements that have no direct or indirect motivation of financial gain . There are suggestions that financial gain could simply be obtaining
anything without paying.
However, it seems that at least one country is showing a reluctance to go along with suggestions that file-sharers should feel the full weight of a criminal court. The UK Government has now said that it feels that criminal sanctions are an
inappropriate way to deal with this type of copyright infringement.
Acta should not introduce new intellectual property laws or offences. Instead, it should provide a framework to better enforce existing laws, a UK Intellectual Property Office representative told ComputerActive.
The US government unveiled an intellectual property strategy that, among other things, will include an examination of international Web
sites that traffic in counterfeit products.
Now, more than ever, we need to protect the ideas, artistry, and our reputation for quality, provide our businesses with the incentives to make each new product better, reduce crimes related to intellectual property infringement and keep
dangerous counterfeits out of our supply chain to protect our citizens, Victoria Espinel, U.S. intellectual property enforcement coordinator, said in a statement.
Espinel joined Attorney General Eric Holder, Vice President Joe Biden, and other top administration officials at the White House to introduce the plan.
The strategy includes more than 30 recommendations, which fall into six categories. Among those categories is a push to secure the supply chain. This, Espinel wrote, will include monitoring foreign Web sites selling fake or stolen goods.
We will take a close look at the unique problems posed by foreign-based Web sites and other entities that provide access to counterfeit or pirated products, and develop a coordinated and comprehensive plan to address them, Espinel wrote.
We will make sure our law enforcement has the authority it needs to secure the supply chain and also encourage industry to work collaboratively to address unlawful activity on the Internet, such as illegal downloading and illegal Internet
The strategy acknowledged the difficulties in policing IP infringement overseas. Espinel's office will work with other agencies, like DOJ and the FBI, to develop a coordinated and comprehensive plan to address enforcement actions, an effort
that will include U.S. law enforcement, diplomatic and economic agencies working overseas, and the U.S. government working with the private sector.