ACS:Law 'porn piracy' cases dismissed

A judge has dismissed the lawsuits filed by ACS:Law against alleged file-sharers and is considering a plea for a £90,000 penalty against the controversial law firm for 'out of the norm' conduct in court.

In the latest twist to the on-going saga, Judge Birss may order ACS:Law to pay the defendants 'wasted costs'. Ralli, the law firm representing the accused, demanded £90,000 from ACS:Law, whose owner, solicitor Andrew Crossley was absent from the hearing.

“If ever there was a case with conduct out of the norm it was this one,” Judge Briss said in a statement while highlighting the firm's efforts to avoid judicial scrutiny.

ACS Law came to prominence for its tactic of sending thousands of to speculative invoices to Internet users it accused of downloading what it claimed was copyrighted material.

The campaign miffed online communities who were subsequently delighted to find that ACS Law left its servers wide open to the Internet, a snafu that saw the personal emails of its lead lawyer, Andrew Crossley plastered all over the web. And very unsavoury reading they made, too.

Court cases brought by Crossley then descended into chaos when the harassed lawyer threw in the towel during a hearing at the Patent Court in London..

The hearing was part of a case pitting MediaCat against 27 suspected illegal file-sharers but Judge Birss refused a motion on behalf of MediaCat to drop the cases altogether last month.

"I want to tell you that I am not happy," the judge said at the time. "I am getting the impression with every twist and turn since I started looking at these cases that there is a desire to avoid any judicial scrutiny."

ACS Law sent out thousands of letters on the back of data obtained from ISPs. The letters suggested victims cough up £500 or face legal action, but the tactic caused a backlash online.

The fim's email leakage also prompted an investigation over its security, as it also involved the leak of details of 10,000 UK-based broadband customers - many of whom were accused of downloading such pornographic fare as: To The Manor Porn and Catch Her In The Eye.

Crossely, who eventually asked the court to dismiss the cases brought forward by his company, is being investigated by the Information Commissioner's Office for the data breach. Crossley is also facing an inquiry from the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

In a statement to thinq_, Michael Forrester of Ralli's Intellectual Property and IT team said: "Our Clients are extremely pleased that these matters have finally come to a close. They have always maintained that they did not infringe copyright in the works alleged and can now put the matter behind them. However, it has been incredibly distressing for them to receive letters and Court papers in this way. They would have rather never been put in this position to begin with.”

On the matter of wasted costs, Mr Forrester explained: “Wasted costs orders allow the defendants to recover their costs from the other side’s legal representatives. In this case it deals with whether Media CAT or ACS: Law should pay the Defendants’ costs.”

Ralli said it is currently advising hundreds of consumers who allege that letters received from firms alleging copyright infringement amount to harassment. Anyone in receipt of such letters can contact harassment@ralli.co.uk for a free assessment of their case, with a view to a group action being taken against ACS: Law.