BT deletes filesharer records before Ministry of Sound can investigate

Ministry of Sound has had to pause plans to send warning notices to 25,000 illegal uploaders on BT’s broadband network. [BT responded after press time – see what it has to say at the foot of this original story, Ed.]

The delay comes after BT deleted over 20,000 of the records that the music company had asked them to save, pending the resolution of a court application.

Ministry of Sound launched a campaign in July to target those who were illegally uploading music on the UK’s digital network. It remixed with lawyers Gallant MacMillan and technology provider DigiRights Solutions who identified over 150,000 UK addresses from where Ministry of Sound’s copyrighted material was illegally uploaded on the internet.

Since then the label has been applying to the High Court to require ISPs to provide them with the customer data of the illegal uploaders.

This process had been working smoothly and over 5,000 warning letters and settlement notices had been sent to illegal uploaders requiring them either to confirm that they had infringed Ministry of Sound’s copyright, and make an out-of-court payment of £350 or risk legal action.

However, BT put a spanner in the works last month after a security breach with ACS Law, where BT admitted to sending customers’ personal details in unencrypted emails to the firm. This information was then leaked on the web after the ACS Law website was hacked.

After getting its fingers burnt BT convinced a Master in the courts to require Ministry of Sound to provide additional information to ensure that the privacy of BT customers would not be breached. Ministry of Sound agreed.

However BT didn’t keep its end of the bargain and failed to hold on to the promised records. Ministry of Sound said although it was happy to incur substantial legal costs to access 25,000 names it was not economic to pursue the 5,000 remaining illegal uploaders.

Ministry of Sound CEO Lohan Presencer said: “It is very disappointing that BT decided not to preserve the identities of the illegal uploaders. Given that less than 20 percent of the names remain and BT costs have soared from a few thousand pounds to several hundred thousand pounds, it makes no economic sense to continue with this application. We are more determined than ever to go after internet users who illegally upload our copyrighted material. We will be making further applications for information from all ISPs. Every time that a track or album is uploaded to the web it is depriving artists of royalties and reducing the money which we can invest in new British talent.”

The loss of the files will come as good news to pirate support groups, which have been campaigning against the anti-copyrighting methods of big companies. Back in October it’s believed the group known as Anonymous targeted the Ministry of Sound website, which resulted in the site being taken offline in a DDoS attack.

* Update from BT: “We’re surprised at this claim since we provided a similar number of customer details to comply with a court order earlier this year for Ministry of Sound and there was no suggestion then that this was a problem for them.

 “All such information is automatically deleted from our systems after 90 days in accordance with our data retention policy; the Ministry of Sound and its solicitors are well aware of this. Upon request from Ministry of Sound we saved as much of the specific data sought as we reasonably could and any not preserved must have been too old. Our door remains open to Ministry of Sound and any other rights holder who wants to enforce their rights in a fair way through an established legal process.”