Tuesday 13 September 2011

MediaCAT saga - solicitors fined

In the latest development in the ongoing saga of the file-sharing cases described in a previous post on this blog as "bullying, copyright trolling, public opinion blunder or what you will", the Solicitors Regulatory Authority has issued fines and costs totalling nearly £200,000 against two lawyers formerly of the firm Davenport Lyons.

The SRA report is worth setting out in full.

Davenport Lyons: Greed clouds judgement and results in £20K fine

Six thousand letters demanding compensation sent on behalf of clients to alleged unlawful file sharers led to a hefty fine at a recent Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) hearing for solicitors David Gore and Brian Miller from law firm Davenport Lyons.

The SDT found all six allegations proven and fined both men £20,000, awarding interim costs to the SRA of £150,000, with.full costs still subject to a detailed assessment.

The letters the solicitors sent out demanded compensation and costs, and warned that recipients faced further action and increased costs if the matter was not settled as a matter of urgency.

The SRA's investigation revealed that the concerns of those who had received letters and protested their innocence were ignored. The SDT found, in effect, that Mr Miller and Mr Gore became too concerned about making the scheme profitable for themselves and their firm. Their judgement became distorted, and they pursued the scheme regardless of the impact on the people receiving the letters—and even of their own clients.

An SRA spokesperson said: "We welcome the decision of the SDT, which follows a lengthy and complex investigation by members of SRA staff.

"Some of those affected were vulnerable members of the public. There was significant distress. We are pleased that this matter has been brought to a conclusion and hope that it serves as a warning to others.

"Solicitors have a duty to act with integrity, independence and in the best interests of their clients. Solicitors who breach those duties can expect to face action by the SRA."


AndyJ said...

I think the headline is a bit misleading. As far as I'm aware there was never any relationship between MediaCAT ltd and Davenport Lyons, just between MediaCAT and ACS:law.
Of course this fine and HH Judge Birss's excoriating comments in the ACS:law case, together with the predicted demise of Righthaven in the US, are good news which might just signal the end of this kind of rights trolling.

Ben Challis said...

I noticed story on a similar topic in the United States a couple of weeks ago when 'copyright troll' Righthaven was 'Kicked Out Of Court Again'. Here US District Judge Kent Dawson became the third federal judge to rule that Righthaven LLC lacked standing to sue over the alleged infringement of a Las Vegas based newspaper's copyrights.

Since early 2010 Righthaven has filed nearly 300 lawsuits on behalf of newspapers who are copyright owners and whose works have ended up being used on the web. Righthaven's modus operandi is to surf the web for online postings of content from its partner newspapers, then purchases the copyrights from the newspapers when it uncovers an alleged infringement. Whilst the copyright assignments obtained by Righthaven are often seemingly quite broad, recent lawsuits have uncovered that Righthaven sometimes fails to obtain the exclusive rights necessary to maintain standing in a copyright infringement actions in the USA and some judges have determined that it is the partner newspapers rather than Righthaven who still retain control over the copyright(s).

Righthaven's business model is certainly not popular, not least because "they employ aggressive, unfair litigation tactics against sympathetic and unsympathetic defendants alike" whilst others comment that Righthaven's lawsuits monetise infringement litigation and stifle the exchange of creative ideas and "seek remedies far in excess of those that are statutorily prescribed"

Marcella Ballard and Victoria R Danta, writing on Venable LLP's website, say that "Righthaven may soon find its "business model" obsolete. More than ever, federal judges appear willing to curtail Righthaven's attempts to ignore norms about reasonable and acceptable use of copyrighted material, and that, most can agree, is a good thing.

You can see more at http://www.venable.com/copyright-troll-righthaven-kicked-out-of-court-again-08-05-2011/