Davenport Lyons Threatens to Sue Wikileaks Over Publication of Extortion Letter

Claims that the extortion letter is protected by copyright and cannot be posted online.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

Late last year, Wikileaks obtained a copy of one of the extortion letters sent by the infamous law firm Davenport Lyons. The law firm, at the time, had been sending tens of thousands of these letters which threatened to take the recipients to court if they don’t pay just over 500 pounds. The original goal was to deter alleged copyright infringers, but in a strange twist of fate, the law firm is now actively trying to censor the letter itself claiming that the letter is protected under British copyright law.

The legal threat letters themselves contain a hash value, and IP address and a time stamp that is being used as evidence — flimsy evidence according to many people who have observed the legal side of file-sharing. The reason it is seen as flimsy is that a filename can be called anything and still have the same hash value. Second of all, there is no evidence provided that verified that the file name matched what the actual work was. For all we know, it could have been a 5 minute porn clip rather than a music video. Thirdly, there’s no evidence to suggest that an IP address is linked to an individual. The computer could be used by someone other than the owner of the connection. There could be a wifi connection that other users, including unauthorized ones, could be using that IP address. Finally, a time stamp doesn’t contribute much into proving that a copyrighted work has been uploaded. The alleged incident in question happened over BitTorrent, but no website was given, so who really knows where the evidence was gathered in the first place?

The turn of events seems to resemble the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) deciding that they don’t want the trial broadcasted over the internet. The copyright industry said that the whole purpose of file-sharing lawsuits is to educate the public, yet objected to idea that the case should be broadcasted over the internet. The same sort of contradiction can be seen in the Davenport case. The whole idea is to educate the public, but now they don’t want their own letters being published, claiming it’s copyright infringement.

One might argue that the reason that Davenport Lyons don’t want the letters published in the first place is because they don’t want their letters subject to public or any real legal scrutiny. It’s much easier to attack a single individual singled out rather than attacking a single individual with the public sphere watching. It’s little wonder why the copyright industry has been seen as a bully throughout the years really. If they truly feel they are in the right, why the need to hide their activities in the first place?

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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