Early March, US-based company TCYK LLC began demanding cash from customers of the UK’s second largest ISP, Sky Broadband. In 2014 TCYK monitored BitTorrent swarms for individuals sharing their movies without permission and eventually forced Sky to hand over the alleged file-sharers’ personal details.
Virgin Media customers were targeted by an almost identical wave of letters shortly after, this time sent by well-known copyright troll outfit Mircom. Representing several overseas porn companies, Mircom also want cash to make supposed lawsuits go away.
This week the latter case provided a sinister twist. After TF revealed that Mircom was trying to hide its identity from its domain WHOIS, a reader reported the company to domain registry Nominet. Soon after Mircom.co.uk revealed its true operator to be GoldenEye International, another copyright troll outfit that had featured in previous UK cases. Emails currently being sent to letter recipients also confirm that GoldenEye are handling their claims.
The apparent murkiness of these cases only adds to the anxiety of letter recipients, but today they have some good news. Michael Coyle of Southampton-based Lawdit Solicitors informs TorrentFreak he will give his time for free to defend those accused.
Coyle is one of the most experienced UK-based solicitors in the file-sharing arena. Since 2008 he has spoken with or acted for more than 700 individuals who have received so-called Letters of Claim, including those involved in the infamous ACS:Law case that ended with solicitor Andrew Crossley being severely disciplined.
Coyle says he expected that affair to signal the end of ‘trolling’ in the UK but recent events have sadly proven him wrong.
On Tuesday TorrentFreak revealed that Sky Broadband were handing over the details of an unknown number of customers to TCYK LLC, a US-based outfit aiming to extract cash payments from alleged pirates of the Robert Redford movie The Company You Keep.
And today we have news of another attempt, this time executed by the masters of copyright trolling – the porn industry.
The case dates back to last year when TF discovered that several porn producers had teamed up in an effort to force ISP Virgin Media to hand over the names and addresses of an estimated 1,500 subscribers said to have downloaded and shared adult content without permission.
The companies (Sunlust Pictures, Combat Zone Corporation and Pink Bonnet, Consultores de Imagem LDA), none of which appear to be based in the UK, worked with Wagner & Co, a London lawfirm previously known for working with another troll, GoldenEye International.
Sunlust Pictures, an adult movie company founded in 2009 by former porn actress Sunny Leone, has previously been involved in US-based trolling. Combat Zone Corporation (CZN) is an adult movie company based in California. They’re no strangers to the cash settlement model either.
To keep things centralized these companies hired Mircom International Content Management & Consulting Ltd (MICM), a company already demanding cash payments from Internet users elsewhere in Europe. It is Mircom that are now sending out letters to Virgin Media customers.
Copies received by TorrentFreak highlight the company’s case. One reads as follows:
“It is with regret that we are writing this letter to you. However, the Claimants are very concerned at the illicit distribution of films over the internet,” the letters begin.
“CZN is the owner of the copyright in the film sold under the name “SEXY BRAZILIAN LESBIAN WORKOUT (“the WORK”). The Work has been made available for sale in the United Kingdom. MICM has a license to act for CZN in relation to these claims.”
Any regular reader of these pages will be familiar with the term “copyright troll”. These companies have made a business model out of monitoring file-sharing networks for alleged copyright infringements, tracking down alleged offenders and then demanding hard cash to make supposed lawsuits go away.
The practice is widespread in the United States but also takes place in several countries around Europe. Wherever the location, the methods employed are largely the same. ‘Trolls’ approach courts with ‘evidence’ of infringement and demand that ISPs hand over the details of their subscribers so that the copyright holder can demand money from them.
During September 2014, TorrentFreak became aware of a UK court case that had just appeared before the Chancery Division. The title – TCYK LLP v British Sky Broadcasting Ltd – raised eyebrows. From experience we know that TCYK stands for The Company You Keep and is the title of the film of the same name directed and starring Robert Redford, appearing alongside Susan Sarandon and Shia LeBeouf.
While the movie itself is reportedly unremarkable, the response to it being unlawfully made available on file-sharing networks has been significant. In the United States TCYK LLC has filed dozens of copyright infringement lawsuits against Internet subscribers in many states including Illinois, Colorado, Ohio, Florida and Minnesota, to name a few. Those interested in their U.S-based activities can read about them extensively on ‘troll’ watching sites DTD and Fight Copyright Trolls.
The big news today, however, is that TCYK LLC is about to start demanding cash from customers of the UK’s second largest ISP, Sky Broadband. TorrentFreak approached Sky back in September for information on the case but after several emails back and forth the trail went cold. We can now reveal what has transpired.