Things don't seem to be going well for the Ministry of Sound - the largest independent label in the United Kingdom. First, they decided to sue alleged file-sharers, which have placed them on the wrong side of the public relations battle. Second, their quest to obtain the identities of about 100+ suspected file-sharers was squashed last month as a UK court delayed proceeding until at least January 2011 (thanks to the massive ACS:Law data breach). Now the MOS has found out that BT Broadband has deleted 20,000 out of 25,000
records of suspected file-sharers; records that the MOS wanted preserved.
With most of the data gone, MoS CEO Lohan Presencer expressed considerable disappointment. And with only 5,000 records remaining, MoS doesn't seem interested in pursuing any legal action. According to MoS, the economic cost would outweigh the gain.
"It is very disappointing that BT decided not to preserve the identities of the illegal uploaders. Given that less than 20% of the names remain and BT costs have soared from a few thousand pounds to several hundred thousand pounds, it makes no economic sense to continue with this application."
Mr. Presencer doesn't seem too deterred by this setback. Working with Gallant Macmillan, the only other UK law firm working in the P2P litigation realm, more settlement letters will undoubtedly arrive in the near future.
"We are more determined than ever to go after internet users who illegally upload our copyrighted material. We will be making further applications for information from all ISPs. Every time that a track or album is uploaded to the web it is depriving artists of royalties and reducing the money which we can invest in new British talent."
Those letters will of course have to wait until at least January 2011, and also hope that more ISPs don't choose to nuke their data.
BT got in touch with Slyck.com, and offered the following statement in regards to the data deletion. According to BT, the data was deleted in accordance with their retention policy:
"The Ministry of Sound's solicitors, Gallant MacMillan, have been instructed to withdraw their application for bulk disclosure of BT and Plusnet's customer details in connection with alleged copyright infringement. This case was adjourned on 4 October 2010 until the new year by Chief Master Winegarten following BT's request that the basis and form of the order be reviewed in a full Court hearing.
"The Ministry of Sound's decision is clearly a matter for them. It's a shame though that, in this instance, our concerns over the current process will not be examined by the Court. However, it remains our intention to ensure our broadband customers are adequately protected so that rights holders can pursue their claims for copyright infringement without causing unnecessary worry to innocent people. BT therefore intends to write to ACS:Law and Gallant MacMillan seeking their agreement
to a revised approach to previously granted orders before disclosing any further customer details. Bulk disclosure under these orders was suspended by BT on 29 September. Any rights holder seeking future bulk disclosure of BT or Plusnet's customers via a court order will be asked to agree to our new approach.
"BT believes that with appropriate safeguards to protect customers' rights, confidence in the Norwich Pharmacal process can be restored so that rights holders can feel able to use it to seek redress for online copyright infringement. The safeguards we aim to establish via the Court are on the security of data handling, a threshold for providing a customer's details based on a minimum number of separate incidents, the tone of contact with broadband subscribers and a reasonable approach to financial compensation sought."
Statement in response to MoS press release:
"We're surprised at this claim since we provided a similar number of customer details to comply with a court order earlier this year for Ministry of Sound and there was no suggestion then that this was a problem for them.
"All such information is automatically deleted from our systems after 90 days in accordance with our data retention policy; the Ministry of Sound and it solicitors are well aware of this. Upon request from Ministry of Sound we saved as much of the specific data sought as we reasonably could and any not preserved must have been too old. Our door remains open to Ministry of Sound and any other rights holder who wants to enforce their rights in a fair way through an established legal process."