UK legal firm to stop issuing net piracy letters

Regulator investigates the conduct three law firms

A law firm has revealed it will stop issuing letters to web users accused of illegally file-sharing.

Tilly, Bailey & Irvine Solicitors (TBI) is one of a number of firms that sent letters to web users on behalf of copyright holders.

The letters claim the recipient has illegally shared games, music or movie files over the web and is subsequently required to pay a fine and sign a legal undertaking agreeing not to illegally file-share in the future.

They also detail the date and time the offence occurred along with the file name.

Web user's details were obtained after rights holders identified the IP addresses that was used in the illegal file-sharing and then asked a court to order ISPs to hand over the account identities for the IP addresses.

However, managing director John Hall said the letters had generated "adverse publicity".

"We are concerned that [it] could affect other areas of our practice and therefore, following discussions with our clients, we have reluctantly agreed that we will cease sending out further letters of claim."

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is in the process of conducting an investigation into TBI, along with two other firms; Davenport Lyons and ACS:Law, following complaints by consumer magazine Which? regarding the letters.

Hall said TBI's move did not "alter our view that our conduct has always complied with the Solicitors Code of Conduct".

The SRA revealed it agreed with Which's comments that Davenport Lyon's conduct was "bullying" and "excessive", and has referred the matter to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.

"Just because Davenport Lyons has been referred to the tribunal doesn't necessarily mean the others will... [they] are still under investigation," the SRA told PC Pro.

Which? said it was "really pleased to hear that TBI has seen sense and has decided to move out of the volume file-sharing litigation business".

"Hopefully, other law firms thinking of going down a similar route will begin to realise that although this work can generate vast financial rewards for law firms and their clients, it can also bring a lot of adverse publicity simply because the practice is inherently unfair and unethical," said Deborah Prince, head of legal affairs at Which?.

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