For years, people have speculated that the firms involved in collecting fines from those who have been accused of illegal file sharing are using unsavory tactics to get results. Now there is some hard evidence to back up these claims.
ACS:Law, a European firm that specializes in targeting file-sharers identified to them by internet monitoring companies, has accidently exposed their entire email archive online after a DDOS attack by 4chan last week. These emails show that the firm has the process of collecting funds from residents on the basis of non-existent lawsuits down to a science. So much, in fact, that the firm markets their services to monitoring companies with estimated financial revenues based upon how many demand letters are sent.
Here is the text of one of the leaked emails:
You are going to receive on average about £1,000.00 per 150 letters sent. This can be seen from the first tiny batch. Because we have good quality product being monitored and captures are high on the data we have, when the letters get sent out the figures therefore equate as follows:-
Phase 1: 2,500 letters, estimated revenue to you: £16,666.00
Phase 2: est. 4,000 letters, estimated revenue to: £26,666.00
Phase 3: est. 18,000 letters, estimated revenue to you: £120,000.00
That is data collated to date! I have more titles to give you, more data will be captured.
Additional messages showed that ACS:Law used consumer psychology to persuade targeted individuals to pay higher fines. For example, they would ask for £495 in order to generate £500, since it would be perceived as a better deal.
I think it’s great that this firm was exposed for their unethical practices. They have been basically extorting money from thousands of residents who haven’t even been allowed to defend themselves against these so-called charges. Such practices need to stop, and it’s unfortunate that 4chan is more effective at protecting individuals’ rights than government agencies.