BT and Plusnet let off piracy hook

4 November 2010, 17:44   By Julia Kukiewicz

25,000 BT and Plusnet broadband users were let off the hook yesterday as Ministry of Sound announced that they were suspending action to identify individuals they accused of breaking copyright.

piracy computer
Credit: AlexLMX/

The label attempted to issue BT with a Norwich Pharmacal Order - a writ to force the disclosure of information, in this case names and addresses of alleged filesharers - earlier this year.

Deletion debacle

Ministry of Sound say they've been forced to drop the case after BT deleted 80% of that identifying information.

Under BT's data retention policy, IP address information is deleted after 90 days, a fact, BT claim, Ministry of Sound were well aware of.

But Ministry of Sound CEO Lohan Presencer clearly disagrees.

"It's very disappointing that BT decided not to preserve the identities of the illegal uploaders," Presencer said in a statement.

"We are more determined than ever to go after internet users who illegally upload our copyrighted material. We will be making further applications for information from all ISPs."

He has a point because the only reason that the data became older than 90 days was that BT took out a number of court orders to ensure that Ministry of Sound lawyers had adequate protection for personal information in place.

"Every time that a track or album is uploaded to the web it is depriving artists of royalties and reducing the money which we can invest in new British talent," Presencer added.

Open door

BT denied that the Ministry of Sound were unaware that the data that could be made available to them - under 5,000 names - would make it fairly pointless to continue their action and said that their door was open to those looking to pursue illegal filesharers.

If they obtained the data, Ministry of Sound solicitors Gallant Macmillan would likely have sent out letters demanding £350 'settlement payments' from those accused of illegally downloading their material.

A BT spokesman said: "...the Ministry of Sound and its solicitors are well aware of this [data policy]. Upon request from Ministry of Sound we saved as much of the specific data sought as we reasonably could and any not preserved must have been too old.

"Our door remains open to Ministry of Sound and any other rights holder who wants to enforce their rights in a fair way through an established legal process."

But actions speak louder than words.

BT and Plusnet had already successfully had the court date waylaid after expressing data security concerns.

And BT's reaction to the Digital Economy Act, intended to help rights holders pursue those that break copyright online, shows that the provider has many deep concerns about the legality of this kind of action.

The competence of lawyers may also be a factor in the ISP's reticence.

A Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack on another solicitors firm working with the music industry - ACS Law - at the end of September led to the personal data of thousands of broadband customers, including some of BT's, becoming available online.

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