Thursday 4 August 2011

FRAGILE! Members of the Public

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal has fined two solicitors £20k each and suspended them for three months for sending intimidating letters to people about illegal filesharing, the SRA reports here.

Some litigators may be puzzled to find that the solicitors' crimes included demanding compensation, disregarding protestations of innocence and being interested in making money.


Will Gilmour said...

While your summary might be intended to be 'pithy' its oversimplification of the issues could be interpreted by some as an attempt to gloss over the mercenary and unjustified actions of these solicitors.

If you're not already very familiar with the case then I'd recommend you look into it before making light of it. If you are familar with the case then I'm not sure I can understand why you've written this summary the way you have.

A quick link, for starters:

Anonymous said...

@ Will Gilmour - thank you for your comment. My brief post wasn't intended to provide a comprehensive analysis of the Davenport Lyons story (which, as you point out, is extensively rehearsed elsewhere). Clearly the question of whether solicitors have or have not acted below the required standards is a serious one.

I am a little bit familiar with this story though not, I suspect, as familiar as you are. The angle I was trying to bring in, though possibly too elliptically, was about the nature of the discourse surrounding Davenport Lyons (and ACS:Law and Gallant Macmillan for that matter). Some of the things that these firms have been accused of doing are no different to what litigators do every day, e.g. 'make demands' or work for money. In the file-sharing litigation context, these activities are construed as 'intimidation' or being 'mercenary'. I am NOT saying that what these firms have been doing is right (nor am I saying it is wrong). I am commenting on the nature of the public discourse which consistently portrays members of the public as helpless and innocent, while the solicitors are satanic. 99.9% of copyright litigation is commercial - and there the gloves come off. 99.9% of copyright infringment is done by members of the public. However, it is perhaps worth reflecting on the fact that business people are also 'members of the public' and 'members of the public' are often business people. 'Members of the public' are not all helpless grannies - indeed grannies are often not helpless. By contrast business people are often vulnerable. I wouldn't go so far as to say that solicitors should treat 'members of the public' the same as 'business people', but I find the rather pious tone adopted by those who enjoy bashing these firms irritating. Who knows, perhaps some of those people who attack firms like Davenport Lyons are guilty of illegal filesharing and are not of such a delicate disposition as they would have us believe?

I hope this gives you some insight into why I wrote my post as I did. If not, let me know and I will have another go at explaining.