Top media law firm in the dock

Law firm Davenport Lyons – whose clients include Marketing Week publisher Centaur Media, News International and Guardian Media Group – has been accused of demanding hundreds of pounds in damages from potentially innocent people, whom it claimed had unlawfully shared files on the Internet.
The firm sent 6,113 emails threatening legal action for alleged copyright infringement between 2006 and 2009. Recipients were told that by quickly paying around £500 damages, plus costs, they could avoid court.
But Davenport Lyons partners David Gore and Brian Miller will face disciplinary proceedings in March, following complaints to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). The firm matched IP addresses captured from movie and videogame site BitTorrent.com, with customer records obtained from ISPs by court order.
In a submission to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, the SRA says: “Each of the respondents knew that in conducting generic campaigns against those identified as IP holders whose IP numeric had been used for downloading or uploading of material that they might in such generic campaigns be targeting people innocent of any copyright breach.
“An IP address does not however necessarily lead to a conclusion that the ISP account holder has infringed copyright or authorised another person to infringe copyright. There were other factual possibilities known to [Gore and Miller] such as unauthorised access or a change in IP address after a 24-hour gap following modem switch off.”
Gore and Millar are also accused of acting in the interests of Davenport Lyons, rather than those of their copyright-holding clients, amid claims that they were “regarding the scheme which they were operating as a revenue-generating scheme”, according to the SRA.
In the wake of controversy, Davenport Lyons passed the business to legal firm ACS:Law in 2009 – the firm which recently got into hot water with the Information Commissioner after releasing the names of Sky broadband customers who it claimed had illegally downloaded porn movies.

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