PlusNet sympathetic to file sharers

December 7, 2007 // 4:21 p.m.

Tags: #colin #court #davenport #dirt #file #isp #law #lyons #mcrae #p2p #plusnet #police #sharing

Davenport Lyons, the legal firm best known for sending out hundreds of letters to people accused of sharing relatively unknown PC game Dream Pinball 3D, is once again demanding money with menaces. Sent on behalf of Codemasters, the latest letters accuse recipients of infringing copyright through sharing copies of popular rally game Colin McRae's DiRT.

This latest wave of anti-piracy proceedings against UK file sharers was first reported by a concerned user in the newsgroup uk.legal on November 22nd.

In an interesting twist to the usual way these stories break, an employee of ISP PlusNet has taken the decision to make a post on the official PlusNet blog detailing an insiders perspective of the case and his take on file sharing in general.

The letters sent by Davenport Lyons are the traditional claims of illegality followed by a demand for damages to the tune of £537 to “[compensate] our client for its losses.” The evidence for such infringement has been provided to Davenport Lyons by Swiss anti-piracy firm Logistep AG, who collected times, dates and IPs via use of a modified version of the popular Shareazaa file-sharing program.

Davenport Lyons used this to obtain a court order requiring ISPs to match the data to customer records and disclose the identities of those accused. While this is hardly uncommon, it is usual for an ISP to remain quiet after such an event so as not to worry their customers about the security of their personal data. PlusNet have broken with tradition, and the blog entry that results makes for interesting reading.

Written by Dave Tomlinson, a member of the PlusNet Product Team, the post makes the point that it isn't the job of an ISP to “police” what an individual user is downloading; indeed, the official stance as presented by Dave is that if you are downloading a file without the permission of the copyright holder “then that’s a choice that you make for your own Internet connection.” However, they are also well aware that the day after popular TV shows like Heros and Lost are shown in the states, there is a large spike in bandwidth use.

Dave also provides a handy list of reasons why being caught with your hand in the cookie jar might not be your fault, with examples including “whether another member of their household/workplace downloaded it or whether it was done via an insecure network” and the possibility of “trojans that can allow someone to gain remote access to a PC without the owner’s knowledge” being the reason you shouldn't have to stump up the readies.

While not going as far as condoning the practice of sharing copyright material (a stance which I'm sure would rapidly make Dave an ex-employee), Dave certainly makes it clear that he doesn't agree with the heavy-handed tactics favoured by the RIAA and MPAA in the US and Davenport Lyons here in the UK. He ends the article with a warning that this isn't the only request PlusNet have had for customer data recently, and predicts an increase in these cases over the next few months.

The full post is available on PlusNet's traffic management blog.

Is Davenport Lyons nothing more than a bully with a court order? Should Codemasters be thankful for the interest in their game? Have you received a demand for compensation for sharing files? Let us know your thoughts in the forums.
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