O2 downloaders face porn exposé

The High Court has ordered O2 to provide the personal
details of more than 9,000 broadband customers who have been caught red-handed – and no doubt red-faced – after illegally downloading porn films made by Ben Dover
Productions.
But the ruling sets an important legal precedent because it recognises that the bill payer should not be automatically assumed to be guilty of copyright infringement because they pay for that Internet connection.
The company, owned by Golden Eye International, had originally intended to charge each customer £700, although the judge over-ruled this, saying it was “unsupportable”.
Mr Justice Arnold also said the letter Golden Eye International intended to send demanding payment was “capable of causing unnecessary distress because it could be read as an implicit threat of publicity once proceedings have been commenced”. It intended to threaten those who did not pay the damages with court action.
O2 had fought the bid to access its customers’ details, but it will now be forced to match 9,124 IP addresses that have been observed infringing Ben Dover Productions’ copyright with its customer database and hand over personal details.
An O2 spokesman said: “Clearly we respect the court order and will therefore be co-operating fully.”
Ruling in favour of Ben Dover Productions, the judge said that “the claimants’ interests in enforcing their copyrights outweigh the intended defendants’ interest in protecting their privacy and data protection rights”.
Consumer Focus, which was allowed to intervene in the case on behalf of the O2 customers, said that although personal details will be released it had set
an “important precedent for the rights of consumers, particularly those who are innocent, and the responsibilities of companies seeking redress on behalf of copyright owners,” said chief executive Mike O’Connor.
“It is very welcome that the court has recognised the bill-payer should not be automatically assumed to be guilty when a copyright owner believes they have detected copyright infringement on that internet connection.”
The issue of speculative invoicing by copyright holders was exposed by the activities of ACS:Law, a London firm of solicitors that sent out thousands of letters demanding payment from alleged unlawful filesharers, having done deals with film and video games copyright holders. The company has since ceased trading.

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