Customers of Sky Broadband will soon become the latest to be targeted by Golden Eye International (part of the ‘Ben Dover’ porn brand), which intends to send letters to the ISPs subscribers that will demand compensation for the alleged sharing of copyright material on P2P file sharing networks.

Sky has already begun warning some of their customers about the development, which mirrors what happened earlier this year when TCYK LLP began pursuing their subscribers for sharing copies of the movie ‘The Company You Keep‘ over the Internet (here).

Meanwhile Golden Eye International (GEIL) is certainly no stranger to this sort of approach, which began in 2012/13 when they attempted to target customers of O2’s Home Broadband service (note: this was later sold on to Sky) with similar letters (here and here).

The letters, which are often described as being “Speculative Invoicing“, effectively bully subscribers into coughing up cash (often hundreds of pounds) to settle the copyright infringement dispute and those who refuse are usually threatened with court action.

Extract from Sky’s Warning Letter to Customers (TorrentFreak):

“A company called Golden Eye International, which owns rights to several copyrighted films, has claimed that a number of Sky Broadband customers engaged in unlawful file sharing of some of its films. In support of this claims Golden Eye International says it has gathered evidence of individual broadband accounts (identified online by unique numbers called IP addresses) from which it claims the file sharing took place.”

Organisations like GEIL usually track the public Internet Protocol (IP) addresses used to share their content on P2P networks. Related IPs are assigned to your broadband connection each time you go online and can thus be traced back to the parent ISP. After this point GEIL would submit a Norwich Pharmacal Order (NPO) to a court that forces the broadband provider to release details about any associated subscribers.

However IP address based evidence is notoriously unreliable because such Internet addresses can be spoofed, redirected or even become incorrect due to small timing errors in the ISP’s access log. Similarly an IP address often reflects a network that is shared between many users (e.g. business or home networks, public WiFi, hotels) and thus at best you’d only be able to identify the bill payer and they might not be the guilty individual.

Unsurprisingly only a few such cases have ever actually made it to court and most of those end up being thrown out due to poor evidence or bad practice. It costs the firm a lot more money to sue somebody, which is often more than they’d probably get back from a win.

Generally speaking and assuming you know or believe yourself to be innocent of the allegation, then it’s best to discuss the matter with Citizens Advice first and read the Speculative Invoicing Handbook. In many cases though it may be better not to respond at all, at least not before seeking advice, and if you want a solicitors help then Michael Coyle from Lawdit has agreed to step in.

At this stage GEIL has not yet begun to send any letters, but those often follow a few weeks or months after the ISP issues a warning. Likewise we don’t know precisely how many subscribers will be targeted, although past incidents have tended to involve several thousand customers.