Last month we reported on an interesting development taking place in the copyright enforcement front. Law firm Gallant Macmillan requested a Norwich Pharmacal order (NPO) against BT in order to identify thousands of alleged copyright infringers of its music. Because of the ACS:Law email leak debacle, BT decided to fight the NPO, heralding the end of the assumption that IP evidence should never be contended by ISPs.

Today Ministry of Sound has decided to give up on their attempts to obtain NPOs, claiming that the cost of pursuing such enforcement is not worth the potential dividends. David Meyer at ZDNet explains:

“The record label withdrew its application, it said, because of the heavy cost of providing “additional information to ensure that the privacy of BT customers would not be breached”, and because BT had deleted 80 percent of the details it was after. “Whilst Ministry of Sound were happy to incur substantial legal costs to access 25,000 names it is simply not economic to pursue the 5,000 remaining illegal uploaders,” the company said.”

This is a huge piece of news for various reasons. Firstly, it seems like the implications of the ACS:Law email leak are considerably larger than anyone could possibly envisage when it first occurred. The leak has given Internet service providers the excuse to be seen to fight for their customers’ rights, which in turn has made it more expensive to pursue infringers in the UK. ACS:Law’s business model was based almost entirely on the assumption that ISPs would not contest the NPOs, and similarly that a substantial number of consumers would simply settle out of court. The more opposition there is, the more expensive it becomes to follow this model.

It seems like the Ministry of Sound was operating under the same assumption: it would obtain cheap NPOs and then it would send letter and get some settlements from thousands of individuals. But now they have done the maths and concluded that they will probably not be able to recuperate enough money out of just 5,000 alleged infringers. Besides, they have become a target for Anonymous, and there has been a visible PR backlash against the label. Protesting too much against copyright infringement is seen as uncool (as Metallica, Lily Allen and Gene Simmons will testify).

So, is this another feather in the cap for Anonymous? Their actions seems to be having clear effect in the courts and in the enforcement of copyright. Vigilante justice seems to be working to some extent.


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