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Sky broadband customers warned over porn company’s ‘pay up or else’ letters

A number of Sky broadband customers have been warned that they may be targeted by demands that they pay a fine for illegally downloading pornographic movies.

The broadband firm has sent letters to customers after it was forced to hand over their personal data by a court order to rights company Golden Eye, which owns the copyright to multiple adult movies.

Golden Eye, which also trades as Ben Dover Productions, claims to have gathered the IP addresses of users it accuses of illegally pirating those films, and successfully forced Sky to hand over the real names and addresses of those users. In 2012, it received the same information from O2, and wrote to customers seeking a payment of £700 per film.

The payment was demanded as compensation by Golden Eye, and the firm warned that users who didn’t pay up would be taken to court for their copyright infringement – where lawyers fees alone are likely to top the £700 payment it demands.

The practice, known as “speculative invoicing”, has been criticised by the Citizens’ Advice Bureau in the past. “Some unscrupulous solicitors and companies acting on behalf of copyright owners have taken part in practices known as speculative invoicing or ‘pay up or else’ schemes,” the organisation warns.

It highlights a number of misleading statements used by other speculative invoices in an attempt to get recipients to pay up, such as overstating what the court order entails and implying that the owners of an internet connection are responsible for any copyright infringement that occurs on it.

But the Citizens’ Advice Bureau also warns that the letters from Golden Eye are genuine, and that people should get advice before responding. It adds: “Remember, it’s up to the copyright owner to prove who has committed the infringement, but you must respond to the letter, even if you’re not personally responsible.”

In its warning to customers, Sky Broadband does not go as far as to say that people who receive the letters should not pay the fine, but it does advise them to “carefully read the letter”.

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However, intellectual property specialist Iain Connor warns that people who are accused should think twice before fighting too hard. “Don’t do anything illegal and you won’t get a letter,” Connor says. “Golden Eye will only have gotten details of people that they can prove downloaded content and so whether the ‘invoice’ demand is reasonable will depend on how much they downloaded that infringed copyright material.”

Source: https://www.theguardian.com

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