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Ministry of Sound Gets Legal on Downloaders


Updated - Ministry of Sound Gets Legal on Downloaders

Thousands of British internet users have been issued with letters from solicitors representing the Ministry of Sound} demanding compensation for alleged illegal downloading of its music.

According to the Guardian, the music label instructed its solicitors, Soho firm Gallant Macmillan, to send the letters to the suspected downloaders, threatening them with court action unless they agree to pay the compensation of around £350.

It’s not the first law firm to do this however; ACS: Law has sent out letters on behalf of its clients demanding compensation of up to £1,000.

According to the Guardian, worryingly, many recipients of the letters claim they had no knowledge of the downloaded files. The Guardian, quotes 23 year old Luke Bellamy, who lives at home and received a nine page letter from ACS:Law. Bellamy said, “Getting a letter like this is extremely worrying. I have never downloaded anything from this website and yet I am being chased for this money. My parents have been worried by this, and frankly I've got better things to do with my time than deal with this."

Other law firms are stepping in to battle this new front in the file sharing war. Southampton-based law firm Lawdit, is willing to represent anyone who has received these letters, for free, as long as they have not actually illegally downloaded the files in question. "It seems to me that the only way a claim can be upheld is if you admit it or if they inspect your hard drive,” Michael Coyle, the MD of Lawdit told the Guardian.

Other groups have also stepped in to defend consumer rights, such as Which? and somewhat more surprisingly, the BPI, which said, “Our view is that legal action is best reserved for the most persistent or serious offenders, rather than widely used as a first response."

Paul Gershlick, a partner at Matthew Arnold & Baldwin, a firm specialising in IP issues told TrustedReviews that those in receipt of such letters should consider standing their ground."

“As frightening as it may be to receive these letters, especially for people who have done nothing wrong, they do not simply have to pay up. It is for the person making the claim to be able to prove what has happened…. To be able to feel confident of winning their case, the claimant would either want to be in possession of a written admission of wrongdoing or the hard drive of the computer.”

Gershlick warned though that the recently passed Digital Economy Act could muddy the waters. “The Act {when fully implemented}… would put the onus on people with an internet connection if it can be shown that copyright infringement had occurred through that connection, regardless of who actually did the infringement. This could affect people sharing a home or people whose internet connections have been used by cybercriminals.”

Is this sort of thing making you more cautious about what you do online in general, or has it just put you off listening to anything from the Ministry of Sound? Well, every cloud… as they say.

Via: the Guardian


July 19, 2010, 9:38 pm

Absolute unmitigated f*cking stupidity.

Here's the first reason why: http://recordingindustryvsp...

Now they can all go daisy-chain f*ck themselves.

Pardon my language...

P.S. That is one cool name; how do you pronounce it?

Don Kanonjii

July 19, 2010, 10:47 pm

Another cowboy law firm jumping on the bandwagon. These people make me sick. Harassing innocent people with their speculative invoicing. Head over to consumeractiongroup or slick for support of you have received a letter . Also complain to the SRA of you are innocent.


July 20, 2010, 11:47 am

Hasn't ACS Law sent out over 10,000+ and have yet to take one single person to court.

Makes sense really as an IP address is meaningless, for a number of reasons.

1. somebody could have hacked your wireless,

2. Spoofing

3. It relies on the service provider keeping accurate logs of dynamic IP's.

Soon as ACS Law take anybody to court, they will be torn to pieces, and of course would make all other claims void.

I wonder if you get such a letter you could force the battle in court, that would really put a spanner in there works. :)


July 20, 2010, 1:06 pm

Reeks of a scaremongering publicity stunt to me. If even a tiny fraction panic and pay the "fine" or some are scared off from illegal downloading then it will have done the trick.

Benny Har-Even

July 20, 2010, 1:58 pm

@ DrDark. Thank you - I don't think my name has been referred to as cool before. Feel free to pronounce how you wish, everyone else does.


July 20, 2010, 1:59 pm

lmao on this one. How stupid are the people that work at the Ministry of Sound for doing this. You can't just go to the person who buys an internet connection and start accusing them of downloading their files without proper proof that they are the person at the other end. This would be like me speeding through town and my mum getting the fine 'cos she's the named owner of the vehicle. Get your act together Ministry of Sound and learn how the internet works properly before making various accusations against innocent people, I hope all the people affected sue you for making slanderous accusations, that will teach you.


July 20, 2010, 2:32 pm

@Keith - how does IP spoofing apply to downloading? Sure you can generate fake IP addresses, but if you're downloading you need the incoming packets to get routed to you at your real address. If somebody is able to trace your IP address back to you, is there a plausible argument that your address was spoofed for a download... I can't see how that would work.

Your 1. is likely to be the most applicable defense, but in more serious cases (e.g. child pornography, rather than a few Ministry of Sound tracks) a forensic analysis of the hard drive would be normal, which is likely to reveal evidence of download history in deleted application temporary files, most-recently-used records, crud left over from virtual memory resizing and other OS detritus.

So I can't agree that ACS Law would necessarily be 'torn to pieces in court' - if they picked a few of the worst offenders and conducted the forensic analysis they would probably be able to produce some strong test cases.

But they are vey unlikely to do this because of the cost and the likely backlash over seizing people's computers and bringing to court relatively inconsequential matters... in previous cases in the US when people have been successfully prosecuted, the heavy-handed approach has been something of a PR disaster for the recording industry.

I think @Jones has gauged the intention of this stunt about right.


July 20, 2010, 2:34 pm

@TheKLF99: "This would be like me speeding through town and my mum getting the fine 'cos she's the named owner of the vehicle" - but that IS how it works if you are caught on camera! It would then be up to your mother to drop you in it or accept the points and fine. Something I can see coming into play with illegal downloading once they are able to more accurately determine households that have downloaded. It will only be a matter of time before naivety towards wireless security is not an acceptable excuse (and rightly so).

I dont agree with MoSs actions but they are within their rights to protect their property.

Steve 12

July 20, 2010, 3:39 pm

How do they know your address, I thought internet providers are not bound to give that information.

Oh so temporary

July 20, 2010, 3:51 pm


1) Set-up an innocent web-page, use a facebook app etc

2) Harvest innocent IPS

3) Insert these into your torrent tracker

And instantly innocent people are receiving legal threats and it's difficult to determine who is actually downloading. Are they going to risk forensically analysing an innocent person's hard-drive?


July 20, 2010, 4:16 pm

@simonm: how does IP spoofing apply to downloading?

Do you know how there getting your IP.

Here is how it works ->

ACS deliberately share some music on a pie-to-pier networking site, you connect to ACS server direct to download this track, this is were there getting your IP, and if the IP is spoofed there is no way ACS will know, remember pie-to-pier networking is not doing any Challenge-response authentication here, IOW: IP is meaningless.

Karl Buckland

July 20, 2010, 5:37 pm

@Keith I'm afraid that's not how it works.

I thought that most of these companies were joining existing torrents as a client and monitoring which IPs sent them parts of the file. Thus you are caught sharing the file.

Now, you can spoof your IP when sending a packet over the internet, but the response will never reach you - it will go to the IP you spoofed. Therefore you cannot send or receive a file from a spoofed IP as the acknowledgement or data packets will never be received by your end.

The only way to remain anonymous on the internet is to bounce your traffic across different IPs before reaching the destination.


July 20, 2010, 6:13 pm

@Karl Buckland: I thought that most of these companies were joining existing torrents

Correct, that's what I said. The torrent has details of ACS's IP that you connect to direct.

@Karl Buckland: Now, you can spoof your IP when sending a packet over the internet, but the response will never reach you

Firstly does it need to, especially if you have some unscrupulousness hacker faking thousands of IP's to request a packet from ACS.

And secondly -> In certain cases, it might be possible for the attacker to see or redirect the response to his own machine. The most usual case is when the attacker is spoofing an address on the same LAN or WAN. Hence the attackers have an unauthorized access over computers.

As you can see, using an IP as evidence in court is so full of holes.

And to top all this off, who is to say the Service Providers are totally legit?

IP Address is not proof, and is certainly not "Beyond a reasonable doubt" and it would fall to pieces in court. And is the sole reason ACS law are not taking anybody to court.


July 20, 2010, 6:25 pm

Oh, btw. I meant peer-to-peer (P2P), before political correct police jump in.


July 20, 2010, 6:56 pm

Surely you mean Grammar Police?


July 20, 2010, 7:37 pm

I fully support this writ as the MOS collections simple contain the worst mixes of decent tunes ever and disc 3 is always a non-entity. Education through punishment I say, unbelieveable the data waste on this horrific music collections.


July 20, 2010, 7:39 pm


ACS Law - as Karl says - have been joining torrents as clients and are prosecuting IP addresses that uploaded copyrighted material to their clients. This means actual data transfer over a bidirectional connection which is not achievable by simply spoofing.

The possibility of redirection you describe later goes beyond spoofing, which I still think buys you nothing in this context.

As for the redirection idea, hmm... rather than use an existing anonymous proxy server, you propose a malicious hack to essentially turn a random machine into an an anonymous proxy purely in order to implicate an innocent bystander allowing you to argue the inconclusive nature of IP evidence? Sounds a lot of trouble, and kinda ups the ante as the hack is a more serious offence than the downloading in the first place.

And anyway, no need: IP address is not *proof* of an individual's guilt, and I think these days most courts would accept that. But it is - in a recent US ruling - strong enough grounds for initiating proceedings:

A US judge hearing a Malicious Prosecution suit bought against RIAA made a ruling in RIAA's favour noting that "Linking illegal P2P sharing of copyrighted works to an individual through that individual's registered IP address has been accepted by several courts as constituting probable cause for the initiation of copyright-infringement proceedings."

I agree that ACS are very unlikely to take people to court - not because they can't win, but because of costs and the negative media coverage... cases of this nature have been won in the US, but at considerable cost and the industry hardly comes out smelling of roses.


July 20, 2010, 7:39 pm

@Keith - Ive just come off Jury Duty and having seen some of the piss poor "evidence" that was deemed acceptable and grounds for a prosecution then I wouldnt be so confident of your IP position!

IP evidence is accetable - but it would need a degree of corrobative evidence (as is always the case in the courts). If you had the IP address, evidence of the files on a hard drive and no means to prove a purchase then that would most likely be enough. But hard drive evidence is going to be extremely difficult to obtain in a cost effective manner. IP use is enough to raise suspicion - in any case, as I said before, this is more of an attention grabbing stunt than anything else.

MoS should follow what several of the US TV companies did - release traceable torrents on purpose. Files that will notify once opened. Sure, it wouldnt catch out most downloaders but there are plenty out there with no brains who will open up files and use them without thought.


July 20, 2010, 8:14 pm

@Jones: piss poor "evidence" that was deemed acceptable

Then we have a serous problems with our courts,

@Jones: IP evidence is accetable


@Jones: IP use is enough to raise suspicion

I'd agree with that one. But you certainly cannot prosecute somebody based solely on IP address, if this ever happens then we all need to be very scared indeed. I'm actually a Software Developer, and believe me when I tell you I totally understand how TCP/IP, UDP etc work, I've done plenty of Winsock programming I can tell you.

@simonm: I think your totally misreading my comments, please read again. For starters I'm not implying everybody go hacking TCP/IP packets to bypass this, but they could become victims of hackers doing this. And of course an anonymous proxy server is an easy way out.


July 20, 2010, 9:27 pm


I need keyboard police, I think I have fish fingers...

Besides bad grammar on the internet is a good thing for offenders, you have obviously not seen the "light" on this phenomenon.


July 20, 2010, 9:32 pm

@Keith - I don't think I am misreading your comments. I think we've established that simple spoofing has no relevance as a possible defense in this case. We've also established for certain that an IP address is - in the US anyway - grounds for initiating proceedings.

Obviously it is not enough in itself to convict as you point out - you're right, and the courts and the lawyers know this, so there would have to be additional evidence before the cases came to court. But if ACS wanted to play hardball - and I don't think anyone is expecting this to happen - they would identify a handful of top filesharers, obtain civil search orders, and see if they could construct one or two cast-iron cases "pour encourager les autres". Could they get a civil search order on the back of an IP address? No idea - there may already be case law establishing this one way or another.


July 20, 2010, 11:43 pm

@simonm: I think we've established that simple spoofing has no relevance as a possible defense in this ca

Have we?, Right Ok, you have set me of now. :)

Firstly read my comments again, Spoofing could be initialized by a Hacker that wanted to create havoc, you total misread my comments by implying that I was suggesting that you use Spoofing to hide your identity, I was pointing out Spoofing to point out how IP is meaningless. And please don't tell me Hackers wouldn't do things like this, I'm sure you heard of DDOS attacks, hackers just like creating havoc.

Simple scenario: Your IP is used by a Hacker to recv form ACS, he's not interested in receiving this packet, he just interested in creating havoc. ACS now have your IP, are you saying from this information you believe it's a good idea that the police now come down to your house and do a forensic scan of all your HD's. Now please don't tell me that TCP/IP is going to need a ACK response, in this case simply intercept the TCP/IP packets and don't send a ACK response, you've got the packet now anyway, and are ACS going to ignore you because you never sent an ACK response.

@simonn: Obviously it is not enough in itself to convict as you point out

Correct, and currently it's all the evidence ACS have. And I personally think its very weak evidence to send the police into your home.


July 21, 2010, 3:16 am


The letters are being sent to the owners of IP addresses which uploaded copyrighted material to the lawyer's client.

So... IP address nn shows as offering some music track, and when the lawyer's client requests it from nn lo and behold the data arrives. I thought it obvious that given this exchange the owner of nn could hardly claim spoofing as a defense, but you're still arguing so either I'm wrong and persisting nevertheless, or you are - not sure I care which any more!

If I'm right then your best defense is misuse of your wireless network, but I see that the German courts have already tired of this excuse and are now fining individuals for not securing their wireless networks.

You mention the police a couple of times, but this isn't really relevant - this would be a civil action, so proceeds via a court order executed by a solicitor. And for that matter the plaintiff has, I imagine, already won an initial court order which was how they got the ISP to disclose the names and addresses.

There is a slightly interesting interview with the legal firm involved (not, in fact, ACS) in IT PRO today -



July 21, 2010, 3:57 am

@simonm: So... IP address nn shows as offering some music track, and when the lawyer's client requests it from nn lo and behold the data arrives.

I think this is were your mistaking things, it's actually the Lawyer's who are putting out the music track to act as a seed, think of it as sting operation that police use. You then connect to ACS(etc) server, this is then logging your IP. It would make sense doing it this way as most people downloading are leechers, and ACS don't even have to look for there victims, they come to them. As you can see, this is were Spoofing is definitely relevant. Your link is interesting, especially since it's coming from the mouths of the scammer.


July 21, 2010, 1:29 pm

@Keith - Why do you tell me I'm mistaken over how the law firms got these IP addresses? I'm relying on their accounts... what are you going on?!

ACS:Law, from the Guardian piece:

"We have written to your reader, as with everyone else we have written to, informing them that we have evidence one of our clients' copyrighted works was made available through a filesharing network to others from the internet connection they have.

In other words, the work was uploaded, not downloaded, and is distributed many times over and given to others who in turn make it available to many others."

There are words to similar effect in the interview I cited above with the Ministry of Sound lawyers.

I'll leave it there - I think this could be getting tedious for everyone else. If you want to take this further, my e-mail is sjobs@apple.com. (Spoofing, you see... but I won't receive the replies. :)

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