Some Sky broadband subscribers have been warned they may be required to pay a fine for illicit downloading of porn content. The ISP has sent notifications to its customers after it was required by court to hand over their personal details to rights company Golden Eye – the owner of copyright to many adult titles.
This company, also known as Ben Dover Productions, have collected the IP addresses of users accused of illegal downloading of its movies and forced the ISP to hand over their real names and addresses. Three years ago, it did the same with O2 and wrote to its subscribers demanding a settlement of £700 per title as compensation. The company threatened to take users who didn’t pay up to court for their copyright violation. In this case, the infringers would have to pay lawyers fees alone more than £700.
Such behavior is known around the world as “speculative invoicing” and has been criticized by the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, which said that unscrupulous solicitors and companies acting on behalf of rights holders have taken part in the so-called “pay up or else” schemes. The agency cited some misleading statements of other speculative invoices trying to force recipients to pay up – for example, overstating the significance of the court order and claiming that the owners of an Internet connection hold responsibility for any copyright violation committed from it.
However, the Bureau also confirms that the letters from rights group are genuine, and that people should get legal advice before responding. The agency reminds that it’s up to the copyright holder to prove who has committed the copyright infringement, but the recipients must respond to the letter, even if they are not personally responsible.
In its notification to customers, Sky Broadband does not say that they should not pay the fine, but the ISP still advises them to “carefully read the letter”. At the same time, an intellectual property specialist warned that the defendants should think twice before fighting too hard, because the very fact that they received the letters means they did something illegal. The copyright holder will only have gotten details of subscribers that they can prove downloaded content. This means that the reasonability of the settlement demand will depend on how much they downloaded that infringed copyright content.