In 2009, two administrators from FileSoup, one of the UK's best-known and longest-established Bit Torrent P2P sites, were raided by the police.
Accompanying the cops were members of the Federation Against Copyright Theft, a non-governmental trade association which is wholly funded by and purports to protect its members - privately-owned profit-making companies in the film and broadcasting industry - from copyright and trademark infringements.
During the raids, the FACT goons - along with their taxpayer-funded minders from the UK police - turned one of the admins' homes inside out searching for evidence of movie piracy.
“I got back home just before 8pm to find my belongings had been turned upside down. The dining room was a like a whirlwind had gone through," one of the victims identified only as 'Geeker', told Torrent Feak. "They’d turfed out all the drawers of the desk, chucked back what was of no interest to them, left a pile of paperwork scattered across my desk and table with wires everywhere, talk about a nightmare!”
The police officers and FACT employees tagged and bagged everything with a chip in it, including a satnav system, a mobile phone and a video camera.
A few weeks later, some of the items were returned, but all of the computer equipment was retained pending court action.
Last month, the two defendants were cleared of all charges by the Crown Prosecution Service and their property was returned this week.
Unfortunately, whoever was charged with taking care of the two innocent men's property didn't make a particularly good job of it.
Not only had the police and FACT failed to return all of the property, but most of what they did return was dirty, damaged or inoperable.
“Initially it looks like only a couple of things such as power supply units might be missing, but, as you will no doubt appreciate, there is a heck of a lot of stuff to check, it’s going to take me some time to go through it all,” Geeker explains.
“What concerns me the most about my property, is the condition it is now in… the way it was seized and bagged and how it was probably handled and transported to goodness knows where, the thought just horrifies me,” he adds.
Ernesto from Torrent Freak comments, "To say that the evidence was not properly stored and shipped would be a huge understatement. It looks like the computers have been taken apart, dragged through the mud, with no real attempt to reassemble them or clean things up."
From the photos we have seen, it certainly looks like very little care has been taken to protect the personal property of two people who, according to the law last time we looked, were innocent until proven guilty.
It's not clear from the report who was responsible for the safe transport and keeping of the property in question, but if it was the police someone needs to lose their job. If it was FACT then someone is going to be sued very shortly.
What we still can't quite get our heads around is the idea that a private organisation, backed by self-interested multinational companies with the weight of billions of dollars of cash, can so easily secure the services of the taxpayer-funded police force of a democratic nation state to do its dirty work.
FACT's own web site states clearly: while the Federation is not a statutory body, it is accepted as a prosecution authority in its own right and facilitates the investigation and prosecution of those involved in this type of crime.
Accepted as a prosecution authority by who?
Isn't it time these bullying organisations funded by billionaire Hollywood dinosaurs desperate to maintain the status quo were brought to task by our elected representatives?
The very least the government could do is to stop them riding roughshod over innocent people using the UK police as their own jackbooted private army.
Below is a list of members of The Federation Against Copyright Theft. Do with it as you will.
British Sky Broadcasting Ltd
British Video Association
Carlton International Media Ltd (c/o ITV plc)
Cinema Exhibitors Association (CEA)
Cinram (UK) Ltd
DHL Express (UK) Ltd
Educational Recording Agency
FA Premier League
Filmbank Distributors Ltd
Film Distributors Association Ltd
Motion Picture Association Inc
Motion Picture Licensing Company (International) Ltd
Paramount Pictures International Ltd
Sony DADC UK Ltd
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment Ltd
Technicolor Disc Services International Limited
The Video Standards Council
The Walt Disney Company Ltd
The Twentieth Century Fox Film Company Ltd
Top Up TV
Universal Studios International B.V.
Warner Brothers Entertainment UK Ltd