Davenport Lyons Reported To Authorities; DigiProtect Insists Its Actions Are Aboveboard: “It seems things kept getting worse for Davenport Lyons and DigiProtect, who have teamed up to threaten an awful lot of people that they need to pay up to avoid getting sued for file sharing, usually on extremely flimsy evidence. That means, way too often, the letters are received by innocent people who wonder why they should pay £500 to avoid being sued for something they never did. It certainly feels like a good old fashioned protection racket, and a UK consumer group has now complained to the Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA) in the UK, noting that a number of innocent folks have been apparently bullied by Davenport Lyons into paying up just to avoid being sued for something they never did. The group points out:
Davenport Lyons’ letters to alleged file sharers: make incorrect assertions about the nature of copyright infringement; ignore the evidence presented in defense; and increase the level of compensation claimed over the period of correspondence. In addition, the letters threaten, incorrectly, that failing to properly secure an internet connection is grounds for legal action.
Meanwhile, last month we talked about a clause in DigiProtect’s contract that appeared to say that the firm promised to upload the content to various file sharing networks, which certainly looked like they were going to spread the content more widely in order to be able to send out more of these ‘pre-settlement’ letters. Considering DigiProtect promotes its service as helping companies profit from piracy, it wouldn’t be surprising to find out that in order to increase profit, it has every incentive to first increase the ‘piracy.’ However, the company (who has been rather quiet during all of this) has granted an interview to xbiz where it refutes the arguments that it’s uploading content, saying that the terms of the contract were simply necessary to transfer the legal rights to DigiProtect. Of course, if that were true, why not say they transferred the actual copyrights, rather than say they had obtained the rights to make content available, along with listing out the specific file sharing networks. Oddly, DigiProtect then goes on to claim that any online distribution of porn is illegal online due to laws against distributing porn to minors. That seems like a total nonsequitor.
The company doesn’t explain the claims from its only named client, Evil Angel, about the fact they were told the pre-settlement letters would be for more like $50. It also refuses to name any other customers, though points out that it works with companies besides porn movie makers, specifically noting that it works with software companies too, but it refused to name any. Perhaps that’s because software firms like Atari have backed away from these tactics after all of the negative publicity.
In the end, the whole thing seems pretty questionable. Trying to force people to pay up with threatening, misleading letters with extremely flimsy evidence (which has been barred in some countries) is hardly a reasonable business model. Hopefully, companies think twice before signing up for such a program — and perhaps the SRA will sanction Davenport Lyons for its participation in this scheme.