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.”
Following a series of High Court orders, six UK ISPs are required to block access to many of the world’s largest torrent sites and streaming portals.
The blocks are somewhat effective, at least in preventing subscribers from accessing the domains directly. However, there are also plenty of workarounds.
For many sites that are blocked one or more proxy sites emerge. These proxies allow people to access the blocked sites and effectively bypass the restrictions put in place by the court.
The copyright holders are not happy with these loopholes and have asked ISPs to add the proxies to their filters, which they have done on several occasions.
However, restricting access to proxies did not provide a silver bullet either as new ones continue to appear. This week the blocking efforts were stepped up a notch and are now targeting sites that merely provide an overview of various Pirate Bay proxies.
In other words, UK ISPs now restrict access to sites for linking to Pirate Bay proxies.
Among the blocked sites are piratebayproxy.co.uk, piratebayproxylist.com and ukbay.org. Both sites are currently inaccessible on Virgin Media and TalkTalk, and other providers are expected to follow suit.