FACT oversteps legal boundaries in piracy cases, lawyer claims

We have highlighted situations in the past where entertainment industry groups, including the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and Bescherming Rechten Entertainment Industrie Nederland (BREIN), have been allowed by government officials to take the law into their own hands. There is also a similar organization in the UK that has been overseeing copyright infringement cases, but one lawyer is speaking out against the group stating that they’ve taken their authority too far.

FACT oversteps legal boundaries in piracy cases, lawyer claims

The Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) is basically the UK version of the MPAA, and receives support from many of the same studios. Like the MPAA, FACT has taken a leading role in the prosecution of copyright infringement cases. Unfortunately for UK copyright holders, the organization hasn’t been doing a very good job of it, says Burrows Bussin attorney David Cook.

Cook’s firm has worked to defend a number of clients against copyright infringement, but in an increasing number of these cases, the prosecution drops the charges citing a lack of evidence. While these dropped cases have been a victory for Cook’s clients, he believes that something needs to change in the way that FACT and the police have been conducting investigations.

“It’s right that copyright holders should be afforded the protection of the court, they’ve just been going about it in entirely the wrong way,” Cook says. “In this case, the police seized these computers, they didn’t ever take the computers into the police station, they merely gave them to FACT,” he claims.

“FACT then took the computers and did a forensic report on them, and gave the police the reports – the police didn’t ever independently check what they were saying,” Cook added.

Cook believes that it should be the job of the police to carry out such investigations. “It’s a public function of the police to investigate these things on their own, the police are under a duty to investigate,” Cook told PC Pro.

FACT wouldn’t comment about any cases except to say that they have successfully prosecuted infringing defendants in the past. That seems to be news to Cook, however. “In terms of a successful prosecution for file-sharing, there haven’t been any,” he said.

One interesting thing to note is that FACT actually asserts their legal authority on the organization’s webpage. “While the Federation is not a statutory body, it is accepted as a prosecution authority in its own right and facilitates the investigation and prosecution of those involved in this type of crime,” the organization claims.

If governments are really taking copyright infringement crimes as seriously as they claim, they why are they allowing the “evidence” in such cases to be handled by trade organizations rather than trained law enforcement investigators? This procedure seems fundamentally wrong to me, and I’m surprised that more people aren’t questioning it.