Ministry of Sound and its lawyer have disappeared from the net as anti-piracy action faces an increased backlash
Law firm Gallant Macmillan and its client, Ministry of Sound, have disappeared from the web on the day they appear in court, suing for details of PlusNet subscribers who may have downloaded music illegally. Meanwhile, ACS:Law, a previous victim of denial of service attacks, has said it may go out of business.
Gallant Macmillan apparently took its site offline voluntarily, but an anonymous attack called Operation: Payback is a Bitch, has shifted its denial of service (DoS) attack to the firm’s chief client, the Ministry of Sound – whose site is now unavailable. Today MacMillan Gallant is appearing in the High Court to demand the details of hundreds of suspected illegal file-sharers, from the ISP PlusNet.
Payback comes round again
The anonymous DoS action is a follow-up to Operation Payback, which last week resulted in the publication of personal details of users who were being targeted by ACS:Law for suspected copyright theft. After an attack took the site offline, ACS or its hosts inadvertantly published a backup of ACS’ email repository, including details of BSKyB customers who were being accused of illegally downloading copyright material.
Activists trawling through this have uncovered messages in which ACS chief Andrew Crossley has expressed doubt over whether he can continue, given the scale of the campaign against him, as well as the news that ACS is to face a tribunal, following a large number of complaints and a campaign by consumer magazine Which?, that claimed its letter-writing campaign amounted to “bullying”.
“I do not know how I can avoid being found guilty of something, with 500 complaints to choose from,” Crossley said in a private letter to his advisor, unearthed by TorrentFreak.
Trouble ahead for ACS:Law
ACS:Law could face a £500,000 fine from the Information Commissioner’s Office following the release of data, and the problems could go wider, as it emerged from the correspondence that BT shipped details of 500 customers to ACS:Law in an unencrypted document, in breach of confidentiality guidelines.
BT was forced to hand the details over by a court order, but BT, TalkTalk and other ISPs have said they will resist efforts to force them to reveal customer details, until they are sure the allegations will be dealt with properly. Previous letter-writing campaigns against alleged file-sharers have been poorly targeted, ISPs say.
“Due to serious concerns about the integrity of the process that is being used by rights holders, we will resist efforts to share more customer details with rights holders and those acting on their behalf until we can be sure that alleged copyright infringements have some basis and customers are treated fairly,” said BT.
Activist group Privacy International (PI) is planning to sue ACS:Law for the public exposure of personal details, and PlusNet has said the exposure should invalidate similar actions. “ACS:Law’s actions have undermined the current legal process,” PlusNet told the BBC. “It is in everyone’s interests to restore confidence in this process so that broadband users are safeguarded.
Meanwhile users are being urged by campaigners to contact their ISPs and ask for assurance that they will not give up any details to ACS:Law or similar firms.