Although the tactics of media lobby groups that claim to be protecting the rights of movie makers have been dubious in the past, one of the more deplorable practices some take part in is the sending of extortive letters to households, threatening a court room if a fine isn't paid. Often there is little proof beyond an IP address gleaned from an ISP, but if the accused pay up, more demands can often follow shortly after. This is why London based lawyer Michael Coyle has announced that he will defend anyone that has received such a letter for free – all you have to do is donate to his London Marathon fund.
Coyle, who works for Lawdit Solicitors, has been working on file sharing cases since 2008 and has spoken with over 700 individuals affected by these sorts of demanding letters, according to TorrentFreak. Although he himself acts as a copyright lawyer, he doesn't like to see the British public abused by copyright trolls.
“The amounts [being demanded] are quite staggering,” he said. “In the most recent campaign 2500 letters were sent out. Typical sums demanded are in the range of £500 to £1000. If everyone pays say £700.00 this would generate £1,750,000 which is not bad even for the porn industry.”
The scam he says, comes from the fact that rarely do these companies take anyone to court. Doing so is costly and the whole point of the letters being sent out is to generate money. The porn industry, as he suggested, is one of the biggest proponents of such tactics, often employing third party firms to perform the legal shakedown on its behalf. In the case of recent letter send outs, which targeted Virgin Media and Sky Broadband customers, GoldenEye International, a notorious copyright troll, was found to be behind it.
However Coyle's reasons for helping people with cases like this go beyond thwarting the lobby groups, he wants to protect people from the hassle and stress it invokes.
“The whole process is indiscriminate and causes immense worry and suffering. It’s frustrating and brings the whole concept of protecting your copyright in to disrepute,” he said. Which is why he's offering his free time, though he believes that a government order or legislative change will be required to bring the practice to a halt.
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KitGuru Says: Have any of you been targeted by these sorts of copyright fishing letters? If so, giving this guy a call might not be a bad idea.
Image source: Brian Turner