The hearings at the Patent Court under Judge Birss have been most interesting for followers of the filesharer harassment story. If you’re not familiar with this story this commentary will help before the story continues.
In that post I wrote:
Even the courts were getting tired of the demands of companies like ACS:Law, as Chief Master Winegarten warned. Now we have the Judicial Review into this Act. This was coming; it’s a pity the ISPs didn’t put up more of a battle earlier or this may have come a lot earlier.
Now Chief Master Winegarten’s warning has come to pass with disastrous results for Andrew Crossley and ACS:Law, all thanks to Judge Birss QC.
Last December, Judge Birss QC sat in the England and Wales Patents County Court (PCC) and dismissed a bid by ACS:Law to get default judgements against eight people for alleged copyright infringement. Judge Birss then decided to convene one sitting of the PCC to consider twenty seven cases brought by ACS:Law in what he described as “an unusual step” in an unusual case.
At that sitting Judge Birss rejected an application by ACS:Law to have the cases dropped and adjourned the hearing until yesterday. It was at the reconvened hearing yesterday that things went even more pear shaped for Andrew Crossley and ACS:Law.
Snippets of news emerged from the court during the day and it was clear that Judge Birss was not happy with ACS:Law and their client MediaCat, suggesting that there had been attempts to avoid judicial scrutiny. It also emerged that ACS:Law solicitor Andrew Crossley did not attend the afternoon session of the court.
Then came the really good news: Andrew Crossley said he was stopping his “speculative invoicing” activities in relation to file-sharing.
BBC News carries a report, as does The Guardian (a better effort than their recent piece about the Digital Economy Act), Hellmail, TorrentFreak and The Register (with a comments page that’s worth a look).
I wrote previously:
It seems that none of these cases has ever been brought to court; the methodology behind whatever product is used to identify these alleged infringing IP addresses has yet to be thoroughly and openly examined in a Court of Law. Without due scrutiny before informed authority how can the claims of the likes of ACS:Law be accepted as correct?
Now that Crossley’s methods have started to be examined in a Court of Law things have collapsed. Crossley has walked away from the court with his backside well and truly kicked and Judge Birss has made his feelings quite clear, with a written judgement still to come.
Yes folks, Judge Birss has still to make his final pronouncements on this case. I hope that Judge Birss will make it clear that the vile practice of “speculative invoicing” must stop and that methods used to identify alleged illegal filesharers be subjected to full legal scrutiny.
What a damn shame the ISPs didn’t put up more resistance to the likes of Crossley. They may have saved a lot of innocent people a lot of stress and worry.
I raise my mug of tea to His Honour Judge Birss QC for his incisiveness and all-round possession of Clue in this case. Other members of the judiciary would do well to follow your example, Your Honour.
The public backlash against Crossley hasn’t always been pleasant. When you behave in the way Crossley has that doesn’t come as a surprise. Fuel was added to that particular fire when incompetent IT staff working for ACS:Law posted an archive of their e-mails on the ACS:Law website. It didn’t take long for various interesting e-mails to make their way into the public arena.
The news that Crossley says he is ceasing his activities in this area is well overdue. But once again Crossley isn’t entirely truthful in his statement. Crossley claims that his e-mail has been hacked. If it has then I look forward to that case coming to court. If he is referring to the recent DDOS attack on the ACS:Law website then he needs his memory refreshing. As I wrote previously:
ACS:Law’s site went down under the DDOS attack. In an attempt to get the ACS:Law website back online, a backup copy of the ACS:Law e-mail system ended up being posted on their website. This can only have been done by someone working for or on behalf of ACS:Law. The DDOS attacks did not post that file to the ACS:Law website. Someone did, however, post that file on the internet.
Your e-mail was not hacked Mr Crossley. Your e-mail was posted on the front page of your company’s website. By someone working for you.
That’s a very big difference.
It would be wrong of me to condone the harassment Mr Crossley claims he has suffered. However, many people believe in Karma, the returning to you of things that you do. Some believe that what you do in life will be returned to you threefold. In harassing a lot of innocent people some might say Mr Crossley has bought the backlash upon himself.
In his statement Crossley makes no reference to any acceptance of unethical conduct on his part or on the part of any ACS:Law employee acting in this area, Terence Tsang being one example. Neither does he make reference to any inadequacy of his methods used to identify file sharers.
In short Crossley appears to believe he has done nothing wrong and tries to portray himself as the victim. I see Crossley’s statement as a tactic to try and head off any potential (and in my opinion well deserved) punishments from the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal and the Information Commissioner’s Office. In the words of an American friend, Crossley is trying “to save his ass”.
“Please don’t punish me, I’ll be a good boy now!” being the pathetic plea from the formerly bold and brassy man who declared “I have far more concern over the fact of my train turning up 10 minutes late or having to queue for a coffee than them wasting my time with this sort of rubbish” when talking about the online backlash against his company.
Whether or not Crossley is ceasing his chasing of alleged filesharers, the facts of the matter remain unchanged. Whatever pleas and excuses come from Crossley should be treated with the same contempt he showed for innocent people and the fundamental concept of British Justice: that one is innocent until PROVEN guilty.
He has to answer to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal for his conduct throughout this whole sorry saga and to the Information Commissioner’s Office for the breaches of privacy caused by the posting of the ACS:Law e-mail archive on their website.
I expect both bodies to punish Crossley most severely.
Crossley’s name and brand are irrevocably tarnished, his name a byword for unpleasantness.
Severe punishments will be a fitting end to the unpleasant tale of Andrew Crossley.