Judge dismisses ACS:Law file-sharing cases

A judge has halted an attempt by copyright firm ACS:Law to secure default judgment against eight individuals accused of illegally file sharing pornographic films.

Sitting in the Patents County Court Judge Birss QC ruled that the way the claims were brought meant he was unable to give a default judgment in all eight cases.

ACS was acting for a company called Media C.A.T, which according to the judge represents “various owners or exclusive licensees of copyrighted works … to monitor and protect their copyrighted works from acts of infringement”.

The claimants alleged that the eight defendants all illegally downloaded and shared copies of pornographic films online. As well as damages, the claimants sought an injunction against the defendants to prevent them using their computers for future file-sharing.

However, all eight cases failed at this stage for differing reasons. There was no hearing and the judge considered all the issues on paper.

Three of the defendants instructed solicitors and filed defences to the claims. The judge found it was not clear that the claimants had received these files. However, he was obliged to find that there was no case for default judgment.

In another three cases Judge Birss was unable to find evidence that proceedings had been served on the defendants.

In the final two cases it did appear the defendants were in default. However, the judge identified a number of procedural problems with the way the claims had been filed and therefore said he could not reach a default judgment.

Judge Birss concluded that he was “not at all sorry” to reach his conclusions. “Peer to peer file sharing which involves copyright infringement is an important and serious matter and claimants with a proper claim are entitled to use the full machinery of the courts to enforce their rights,” he said.

Andrew Crossley, the sole partner at ACS:Law, told The Lawyer that the firm was working to “correct the technical issues” involved with the cases and would be resubmitting applications for judgment against the individuals.

He said the firm was “full steam ahead” in its efforts to litigate against file sharers and there were more cases in the pipeline.

Crossley added he would not comment further on the cases.

Earlier this year The Lawyer reported that the firm was being scrutinised by the Information Commissioner’s Office over allegations it breached the Data Protection Act (28 September 2010).

The firm is also being investigated by the SRA. A spokesperson for the SRA confirmed that a misconduct case against Crossley was on its way to a disciplinary tribunal.