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DL/ACS:law - I've received a letter, what should I do?

For discussion of the threatened legal action surrounding the alleged filesharing of computer games, pornography and music. (ACS Law and Davenport Lyons)
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Welcome to this forum, should you have received a letter do not panic, read the threads and make a (hopefully more informed) decision on how you want to proceed.

To avoid repeating previous posts, please familiarise yourself with the following information before posting.

Summary site (BeingThreatened.com) and Chat (IRC) or Chat (WebClient)
I've received a letter, what should I do? and Davenport Lyons - What can we do as a group?

DL/ACS:law - I've received a letter, what should I do?

Postby penumbra » Fri Nov 21, 2008 6:35 am

See http://www.beingthreatened.com

This post is not legal advice. If you want that, go to a solicitor. Here are some ideas of where to find one:
  • Your local Citizen's Advice (CAB) will be able to give you a few hours of free advice, but be organised when you go to them so you can get the most out of your visit.
  • Many local solicitors will offer surgeries where local members of the public can get a few hours of free legal advice. It's probably an idea to go through the phone book and ring around, or ask your local CAB if they know of any. They might not be able to draft a letter for you, but they should be able to reassure you and guide you down the right path.
  • There is also an organisation called Community Legal Advice, which can provide free legal advice.
  • If you live near a law school or university, often there will be organisations run by students who do pro bono work for the local public - one such example is the Bristol Law School.
  • You may also have access to legal advice through professional memberships, as part of being in a union or through your home insurance.
  • Certain companies, such as Which also provide a subscription based legal service.
  • Finally, if you have the money - employ a solicitor. Lawdit currently have several people who have received Davenport Lyons' letter on their books. They have also offered free phone advice and to defend your case at a reasonable rate.

This post is a condensing of the information available out there and should give you some ideas of how to handle yourself. Hopefully it will also reassure you that you're not going to be bankrupted any time soon.

Like my other post, if people want to chip in ideas PM me and I will update this post accordingly. Feel free to discuss in the Davenport Lyons discussion thread. Davenport Lyons will not stop accusing innocent people of offences they did not commit, unless we take action as a group. For some ideas of what you can do, see here.

What does it all mean?

Davenport Lyons (or more recently, ACS:law who are working in cahoots with them) have sent you a Letter of Claim, or a "warning shot". They are not taking you to court this instant, despite the way your letter is probably worded. They do state that if you continue your (alleged) infringing, or if you ignore their letter they will. The consensus is that simply ignoring their letter is unwise.

Having said that - bear in mind that at this point you don't owe anybody anything. This is not a "fine", like you would get for speeding or from the police. This isn't a criminal matter. It's a civil matter, which means that at present they have no power to make you do anything whatsoever. The only way they can force you to pay anything is by taking you to court and getting a judgement.

Ok, ok, but what should I do?!

Michael Coyle at Lawdit has some excellent advice. Generally the consensus opinion amongst people is:

  • Calm down.
  • Decide whether you did, or didn't do what they hold you responsible for. Bear in mind that an IP address alone is very poor evidence to be basing this sort of allegation on.

Whether or not you think you've actually done the deed they accuse you of will shape your future actions.

  • If you didn't do it:

    Either write a short letter denying their claims yourself, or get a solicitor to do it for you. In the three years that this sort of thing has been going on nobody who has replied and denied their accusations have ended up in court.

    • Keep it brief. Their evidence is not as strong as they like to make out and they know that. Previously, people have been sending letters back and forth for months (years in some cases) debating points of evidence. The briefer it is the less protracted your correspondence is likely to be.

      • Note that if you read the letter carefully they don't accuse you of committing the infringement. The only say an infringement occurred which was allegedly traced to your connection. This subtle point is important to grasp. They have no evidence you did anything, and admit as much. You should remind them of this. Loudly.
      • Make a point to specifically deny breaching the parts of the CDPA 1988 which they allege were breached using your connection. It is usually sections 16(1)(d) and 20 of the act. (It might also be worth noting that, section 16(2) of the act requires you to directly infringe copyright, or authorise someone else to do so. )
      • It might be an idea to write something along the lines of "I have never possessed a copy of the work in any form, nor have I distributed it, or authorised anyone else to distribute it using my internet connection.", obviously changing it for your specific situation.
      • There is no law in the UK under which they could sensibly hold you responsible for someone using your internet connection, without your knowledge, for illegal activity. Failing to secure your wireless or keep your anti virus up to date is not illegal.
    • If you are writing your own letters, it may be an idea to inform them you are levying a charge (of say £50 per letter) on any future correspondence which will form part of a counter claim. There are provisions in the civil procedure rules (specifically section 52, rule 48.6) regarding how much a lay person defending themselves can charge. It will not deter them from pursuing the matter, but at least you will be able to claim expenses if you win in court. Keep thorough records of how much time you are taking researching the matter and writing letters. It might be an idea to put a sentence in your letter reading something like "Please inform your clients that if they wish to pursue this matter, I will seek to recover all my costs to the maximum permitted by the Civil Procedure Rules.".
    • From past experience, they almost certainly will not listen. Instead, they will simply try and intimidate you further. If it was a self drafted letter they will probably tell you to seek representation (or tell you to stop taking advice from internet forums), and they will almost certainly make claims of successful cases awarding them £16,000. Despite the quotes from David Harris in that article, this case (involving the mysterious Ms. Barwiniska) was entireley undefended and not contested in any way, so it is worthless as a precident. They could have asked for a million bajillion pounds in the shape of a swan, and the judge would have awarded them it. Keep your head. Repeat your denials, ask them for full evidence and if you feel out of your depth, contact a solicitor and ask for legal advice.
    Which? magazine have reported Davenport Lyons to the SRA (The body who regulate solicitors in the UK). It is well worth getting in contact with them at whichcomputingnews@which.co.uk and giving them the details of your case.


  • If you suspect you might have done it:

    • If you pay the £500, it will all go away . But, beware, if you're caught in the act again - next time the amount will be more like £1000.
    • It may be an idea to write a short letter promising not to distribute the file in question (do not sign their own undertaking), and enclose a cheque made out for the sum of one copy of the "work" (you will have to research how much it retails for).
    • They will probably try and make you think you have to stump up the £500, but in reality this amount is decided by the court and they have no business setting what is arguably a disproportionate amount, as the government's Intellectual Property Office says:
      "Cease and desist", a request to halt an activity or face legal action, is normally your goal. You might also ask for any stocks of the offending products to be destroyed or sent to you. Sometimes, you might ask for damages, although you are unlikely to get too far - typically, a court decides any award.
    • As this is an inherently more complex legal situation, it is probably even more important you find legal advice if the above doesn't work. However, it is very unlikely (but still possible) they will take you to court over a single MP3 or film file. Their motives are almost certainly generating revenue rather than seeking justice. The purpose of the letter they send you should be to open a dialogue that will not tie up court time, as per the civil proceedings pre action protocols:
      1.3

      Pre-action protocols outline the steps parties should take to seek information from and to provide information to each other about a prospective legal claim.
      1.4

      The objectives of pre-action protocols are:

      (1) to encourage the exchange of early and full information about the prospective legal claim,

      (2) to enable parties to avoid litigation by agreeing a settlement of the claim before the commencement of proceedings,

      (3) to support the efficient management of proceedings where litigation cannot be avoided.

Please limit discussion to here: Davenport Lyons Lawsuit Discussion Thread.
Don't take rubbish from ACS:Law / Digiprotect / Logistep lying down. Go to Beingthreatened.com for advice and help others out by meeting your MP and filling out the statistics form! This scheme will not stop unless you are willing to contribute.
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