Sky customers accused of pirating movie

Law firm demands cash

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Dozens of Sky broadband users have received legal letters accusing them of pirating a movie and asking for cash.

US law firm TCYK - apparently named after the 2012 movie The Company You Keep - obtained a court order against Sky Broadband earlier this year, demanding details of customers that it claims downloaded the film illegally.

The letters threaten that 'adverse costs consequences against you could follow from a failure to constructively respond to this letter'.

And, they suggest, customers should pay up to avoid a court case. "We will propose an appropriate figure to you... after we have received your response to this letter and carefully considered its contents," the letters read.

The customers are accused of using so-called torrent sites to illegally download the Robert Redford movie. TCYK says it's identified them with the help of a forensic computer analyst, who has traced their IP address - the unique code attached to every computer.

However, this is a controversial argument, and one that generally doesn't stand up in court, as it's common for several family members to use the same machine. And if you haven't downloaded the movie yourself, or given someone else permission to do so, then you haven't committed any offence.

As a result, says UK solicitor Michael Coyle from Lawdit Solicitors, the threats from TCYK are pretty empty.

"If you deny the infringement then there is no way the rights holder can establish you have committed any wrongdoing," he says.

"99% of people who come to me are innocent. They are the person responsible for the payment of the bill; nothing more. TYCK knows it, the courts know it and we all know it. It's a massive racket. So my advice is to deny and don't pay a penny."

He's offering to write to TYCK on customers' behalf, in return for a donation to a charity for disabled children.

So-called copyright trolls make their money through such tactics, and are on the rise. Some up the stakes by buying up the copyright to porn films and then pursuing people they claim have downloaded them illegally, knowing that sheer embarrassment will encourage people to pay up.

But it's worth noting that even if you have downloaded the movie illegally, you're under no obligation to pay the amount TCYK suggests. Copyright owners who claim financial loss need to justify the settlement sum, which should be 'reasonable and proportionate'.

In this case, TCYK appears to have taken out a mortgage in order to buy the copyright, and has spent over £30,000 on Sky's legal costs. But court cases are expensive, and the company will be hoping that people just pay up.

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Citizens Advice has some useful information, here.

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