FAST moves to prosecute illegal filesharers

There’s no love lost between the Federation Against Software Theft (FAST) and illegal downloaders.  

The organisation has not been slow in coming forward, putting more than its two pence worth into the problems with the 26 cases currently facing prosecution for illegal downloading as a result of the letter writing campaign undertaken by ACS: Law.

It has said in a press releases that it wants these cases to “be seen through to their natural conclusion.”

The sorry story begins a few months back when an internet investigation by ACS: Law and its partner company MediaCAT, sent notices to alleged illicit file-sharers demanding they pay or face legal action.

However, last month ACS:Law chickened out – or as we like to think, saw the light- , ACS:Law  told the court that it would no longer be representing MediaCAT in pursuing the copyright infringement cases. This basically means it wanted to withdraw all the cases.

Last month we reported that this was because ACS:Law solicitor Andrew Crossley was claiming to be receiving death threats.

At the time the BBC reported that, in the statement, read to the court by MediaCAT’s barrister Tim Ludbrook, Mr Crossley said: “I have ceased my work…I have been subject to criminal attack. My emails have been hacked. I have had death threats and bomb threats.”

However  FAST has decided that it’s still not right.  

Julian Heathcote-Hobbins, General Counsel at FAST, said: “The indignation about one or two law firm’s antics is a distraction from the real issue. People should know that if they wish to ‘lift’ a product, it carries a risk and that is of being caught. We would never question that due process must be followed and other rights respected, but these reasons are a smoke screen that illegal file sharing should still be tackled. This does not mean that the file sharing in general is wrong, just that if someone does not wish for their product to be shared on a p2p platform, it should not be. It’s a choice that should remain as one.

“Much press coverage is being given over to the problems, politics and methods employed to catch infringers, but what has been forgotten is that the appreciation of value in digital IP is so low, many think nothing of sharing paid for product with friends and the world at large for free.”

“Amongst the speculation around these cases, there is an interesting technical point which could cause legal debate.  Currently, as far as peer 2 peer investigations go, investigators have not managed to see past the IP address.  An IP address identifies a computer, not necessarily the actual person involved in the infringement,” he added.

“This is another reason we would argue these case continues, as the technical aspects of this case need to be tested.  Doubters have argued that moral responsibility does not equate to legal responsibility as to who is using the account in their name.”

The court has given MediaCAT and the copyright owners in question 14 days to join the action before it gets struck out, and a further hearing is set for March 16th 2011.

ACS:Law hasn’t had an easy time of it. Earlier this month the ICO decided that the telco was not responsible for emailing unencrypted customer details to ACS:Law. Instead it has handed the ball back to the company claiming that as the incident concerned the failure of staff within the company, BT should deal with it internally.

However, although BT got off ACS:Law still has some crosses to bare. Last month the UK Pirate Party called for ACS:Law to be investigated over the methods it used to gather evidence into alleged file sharing. The case continues.