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Legal Ethics

Law Firm Could Face Big Bill After Sending 1000s of Letters Threatening to Bring File-Sharing Suits

Posted Apr 18, 2011 12:01 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Solicitor Andrew Crossley of ACS:Law apparently saw a potential moneymaking opportunity when he sent out letters to some 10,000 individuals alleging that their Internet Protocol addresses had been linked to illegal file-sharing sites and threatening legal action if they didn't hand over about $800 each in damages.

But that plan has now backfired badly. The project, which Crossley took on in cooperation with MediaCAT, a group that said it represented copyright owners, not only didn't bring in big bucks but could cost the solicitor and his now-defunct United Kingdom law firm a hefty bill—albeit one that likely would be covered by insurance.

A judge in the Patents County Court of England and Wales case is conducting hearings to determine if Crossley and his firm should be required to pay costs for the 26 or 27 defendants they actually sued for allegedly downloading copyrighted pornographic films without permission, according to the BBC News and Computeractive.

Refusing to allow an appeal by Crossley on the costs issue, because he said it would have "no real prospect of success," Judge Colin Birss QC questioned both whether the litigation was pursued in a standard manner and whether Crossley was influenced by a personal financial interest in the proceedings, reports Computeractive.

Another hearing on the matter is scheduled in June.

Meanwhile, Michael Forrester of Ralli Solicitors is seeking more potential clients for a planned harassment claim against Crossley, reports the BBC.

"It can be incredibly upsetting for people to receive these letters and they may well have a claim in harassment, so I am urging them to come forward," he states.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority is also looking into the matter, according to the BBC.

Neither article includes any comment from Crossley or his counsel.

Additional coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Hackers Post Law Firm E-Mail, Exposing Defendant Data, Lawyer’s ‘Lambo’ Tastes"

ABAJournal.com: "After Hack Attacks and Death Threats, Lawyer Tells Court, He’s Dropping File-Share Suits"

PC Pro: "Judge: ACS Law's conduct was "chaotic and lamentable"

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