Some appearances of Davenport Lyons on the net…
(Background: Davenport Lyons are a law firm who specialise in sending threatening letters to members of the public accusing them of illegally downloading copyrighted material; also see my previous articles Davenport Lyons, DigiProtect and Evil Angel — criminal scammers? and More on Internet scammers Davenport Lyons)
Yahoo Tech says they’re operating a scam:
New tech scam extorts money, accuses users of stealing porn
Those Nigerian princes have nothin’ on the lawyers of Davenport Lyons, a British outfit which is threatening to sue UK residents by sending “pre-settlement letters,” much like the RIAA uses to get accused music file sharers to pay up. The twist? Davenport Lyons says it represents the interests of a group of German pornographers, or at least a company (called DigiProtect) which owns the right to a grand total of two such films (plus assorted other digital content).
According to the Guardian, some 25,000 people have received letters from Davenport Lyons, demanding payments of roughly 500 pounds (about $770) each. Hundreds of people have claimed innocence in these cases, with numerous letter recipients complaining that they wouldn’t even know how to download movies, and if they did it certainly wouldn’t be gay German pornographic fillms.
Kudos to Michael Coyle, a solicitor helping letter recipients fight the claims of Davenport Lyons: For 50 pounds he helps consumers respond legally against these strongarm tactics. To date, Davenport’s only real successes have come in cases where no one showed up in court to defend themselves…. but five-figure judgments certainly get people scared and interested in settling, which is precisely the point.
Slyck asks “what can we do as a group” against them:
There are two bodies where you should start.
(1) The Information Commissioner’s office
There is an excellent post over at Lawdit, by Michael Cole entitled Why the Information Commisioner has let you down. This has the postal address of the Information Commisioner in the final paragraph. The post explains exactly what the IC is doing wrong, and what to say in your letter about the issue. According to the register article about the recent pornography letters there are extra considerations when your personal data is mixed in with questions of sex and sexuality.
(2) The Solicitors Regulation Authority.
In your letter to the Solicitors regulation Authority you will want to make these points:
- With a list of 25,000 names, innocent people may find themselves bombarded with threatening letters from lawyers which make them pay up rather than assert their innocence. Innocent people can be and have been targeted and Davenport Lyons has already had to back down, according to Which magazine’s experience with Gill and Ken Murdoch.
- The distribution of obscene content for free on the internet where it is available to minors is probably illegal, at the very least it is unethical. Davenport Lyons latest clients, Digiprotect have done just this deliberately for the purposes of catching people subsequently distributing their content. Furthermore, John Stagliano (the maker of some of the “works”) is under investigation under obscenity laws in the US for distributing some of the items on the leaked Digiprotect contract in the proper manner.
- The time period Davenport Lyons waits before sending out the infringement notice (6-7 months) means that very few people who receive a letter will still have computer logs available of their activity at the time of their alleged infringement. It also devalues any forensic analysis performed of the accused’s hard drive. This means anyone innocent who finds themselves accused, will be far less likley to be able to mount an adequate defence to Davenport Lyons’ claims of infringement.
This is behaviour which is clearly at risk of bringing the profession into disrepute (Rule 1.06 in the code of conduct)