Customers of UK ISP Sky are being hit with a new wave of 'pay-up-or-else' letters from copyright troll outfit GoldenEye International. The letters seen by TorrentFreak include the usual claims but recipients should be warned that corresponding with the company by email is a frustrating process.
GoldenEye International are one of the small handful of companies engaged in so-called “copyright troll” activities in the UK.
Unlike thousands of other companies who try to have infringing content removed from the Internet, Golden Eye simply leaves it there while monitoring those who dare to download and share it.
For several years the company has been targeting subscribers in the UK and has recently sent out a new wave of threat letters. TorrentFreak has been in touch with many letter recipients, all of them customers of UK Internet service provider Sky.
The demands all relate to the alleged downloading and sharing of various pornographic movie titles owned by Ben Dover Productions, Immoral Productions, Third World Media, Echo Alpha and Harmony Films.
The High Court order through which GoldenEye (GEIL) obtained the users’ personal details is dated August 2015 but in some cases the alleged offenses date back to 2014 which in many cases makes it difficult to identify who might have been responsible.
Indeed, this is a problem faced by several letter recipients interviewed by TorrentFreak. While a minority accept that GEIL’s allegations are true, others are vigorously denying them.
Several insist that due to the number of people who have free access to their home connections it’s all but impossible to know who the infringer was back in 2014/2015, if there even was one.
But perhaps more worrying is what happens when people choose to engage Golden Eye themselves.
“In order to elicit a speedy response we recommend email as the most efficient communication,” GoldenEye says in its threat letter.
While email is indeed efficient, convenient and cheap for GoldenEye (a company obviously keen to keep its costs down), exchanges seen by TorrentFreak indicate a complete unwillingness for them to accept what they are being told.
In some instances letter recipients tell GoldenEye that not only did they not download or share anything illegally, but they haven’t allowed anyone else to do so either. The company effectively ignores these protestations and insists that its evidence was assessed by independent experts.
Interestingly, however, the reportedly independent experts areTobias Fieser and Patrick Paige, men that are up to their necks in similar trolling activities in other parts of the world, with the latter previously being described in less than favorable terms.
Of course, no evidence has been actually tested by the court but most people corresponding with GEIL don’t know that. It’s worth noting that even if the evidence had been tested and it was guaranteed accurate, GEIL only have the bill payer’s name and if he or she didn’t do it, GEIL have a problem.
“It’s important to understand that the copyright owner can only take action against the person who actually committed the infringement. This may not be you,” the UK government told letter recipients in advice last week.
Worryingly, TorrentFreak has seen other correspondence that indicates that once letter recipients engage in discussion with GoldenEye via email, the porn outfit uses the opportunity to obtain more information, information that it did not have in the first instance. This is often known as a ‘fishing expedition’ and copyright trolls love them.
For example, some people have informed GEIL that they have left their router insecured so that friends and family can easily access the Internet when they visit. GEIL then want to know the names and addresses of these people so they can be pursued. Recipients are under no obligation to help with these inquiries but because of the legal threats, some feel obliged to comply.
Furthermore, others who have mentioned having an unsecured WiFi have been met with questions about the make and model of their router. Quite why GoldenEye need this information is uncertain but it’s almost certain that any information provided will somehow be used against the recipient.
The common theme throughout, however, is that whatever people tell GoldenEye in an email, the company either ignores or has a canned response for. The company sends PDF files back to people who email them with a defense and these are all template responses going over the same things time and again. It is clear that people aren’t being treated as individuals and that the process is being automated wherever possible.
With all this in mind people should consider whether email really is the best way to handle a claim from GoldenEye International. Granted, responses from the company are often quite quick, but this encourages people to respond quickly too, often without adequate consideration before doing so.