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Ministry’s sue-the-fans litigation gets court set back

By | Published on Tuesday 5 October 2010

Aside from having to deal with the combined IT and PR challenge of having its website forced offline by one of those very fashionable Distributed Denial Of Service attacks and then having its Facebook page – where its faltering website was redirecting the punters – covered in “you bastard” style comments from file-sharing fans, Ministry Of Sound also suffered a legal setback yesterday at stage one of its sue-the-fans litigation.

As previously reported, the legal firm representing the superclub’s record label, Gallant Macmillan, went to the High Court in London yesterday to ask a judge to force various internet service providers to reveal the identities of hundreds of web users suspected of illegally file-sharing Ministry’s content. The label’s web trackers will know what IP addresses have been illegally sharing their content, but need the ISPs to reveal the names and contacts of the people using those IP addresses so they can sue them. 

It was unfortunate timing, coming just a week after ACS:Law, another legal firm that specialises in file-sharing litigation, accidentally published a load of confidential information it had obtained about suspected file-sharers having won court orders to force ISPs to reveal that information. 

With that in mind, yesterday BT told the High Court that it planned to fight any future court orders seeking personal information about their customers for the purposes of file-sharing litigation, demanding that any content owner making accusations of online copyright infringement better demonstrate the “basis” of their legal claims. 

Responding to that, the judge dealing with Gallant Macmillan’s court order request adjourned the case, giving BT the opportunity to present in more detail its concerns about the file-sharing litigation approach currently being pursued by Gallant Macmillan and ACS:Law, presumably with a view to making it harder to for content owners to gain access to suspected file-sharers’ personal details. 

A BT spokesman told The Guardian: “The incident involving the ACS:Law data leak has further damaged people’s confidence in the current process. We’re pleased that the court has agreed to an adjournment so that our concerns can be examined by the court, this will then act as a precedent/test case for the future”.

He added: “We want to ensure broadband subscribers are adequately protected so that rights holders can pursue their claims for copyright infringement without causing unnecessary worry to innocent people. We have not simply consented to these orders in the past, we have asked for stricter terms as public concern has risen. The data leak with ACS:Law prompted us to take further action today. We are also seeking a moratorium on outstanding applications and orders”.

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