Court orders O2 to name ‘porn pirates’

The UK High Court has ordered O2 to hand over the personal details of more than 9,000 O2 broadband subscribers to Golden Eye International and the adult programme producer Ben Dover Productions.

Ben Dover is a pseudonym of Lindsay Honey, a British performer, director and producer of pornography, who set up Golden Eye International in 2009.  The judge however said his (Honey’s) intention to demand £700 from each of the O2 customers he accuses of unlawful filesharing was “unsupportable”.

The judge also said the letter Golden Eye International intended to send demanding payment was “capable of causing unnecessary distress because it could be read as an implicit threat of publicity once proceedings have been commenced”. It intended to threaten those who did not pay the damages with court action.

O2 had fought the applications to access its customers’ details, which Golden Eye international made with a total of 13 pornography firms. The court rejected 12 of the applications but found in favour Ben Dover Productions, saying that “the claimants’ interests in enforcing their copyrights outweigh the intended defendants’ interest in protecting their privacy and data protection rights”.

O2 will now be forced to match 9,124 IP addresses that have been observed infringing Ben Dover Productions’ copyright with its customer database and hand over personal details. A spokesman for telecoms firm said: “Clearly we respect the court order and will therefore be co-operating fully.”

The judge rejected the other applications for O2 customers’ personal details because Golden Eye International would pursue alleged unlawful downloaders on its own and take 75 per cent of any damages paid.  “That would be tantamount to the court sanctioning the sale of the intended defendants’ privacy and data protection rights to the highest bidder,” said Mr Justice Arnold.

Ben Dover Productions will meanwhile jointly pursue its copyright infringement claims with Golden Eye International.

Consumer Focus, which was allowed to intervene in the case on behalf of the O2 customers, said that although personal details will be released it had set an “important precedent” to protect internet users from so-called speculative invoicing by putting a greater burden of proof on the claimant.

“It is very welcome that the court has recognised the bill-payer should not be automatically assumed to be guilty when a copyright owner believes they have detected copyright infringement on that internet connection.”

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