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Lawyer says accused 'sharers' should resist legal claims

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People who claim they have been wrongly accused of illegally sharing computer games on P2P networks should stand up to their accusers, a legal expert said today.

The comments came as Davenport Lyons, the law firm taking action for games publisher Zuxxez, continues to chase 500 British people it claims illegally shared the game Dream Pinball 3D.

Dai Davis, a solicitor with Brooke North LLP, who has been representing people in intellectual property cases for 20 years, spoke up for the accused after being told that Davenport had refused to entertain their claims of innocence.

Davenport accepts that some users may have had their machines hijacked or used without their knowledge but says they should still pay £300 to £600 to settle its claims or face arguing their case in court.

"The security of your computer and internet connection is your responsibility," it told them.

Davis disagreed, however: "Are you responsible for the criminal acts of others if someone hacks into your wireless network? No you're not. There's no legal requirement for someone to have a secure network.

"Ultimately Davenport will continue to try to bully [people] into settling, but if [people] push it and push it, they'll go away. They can't be held responsible for the criminal act of a third party," he said.

Davis' scepticism of Davenport's threats echoed the instinctive reaction of many Register readers who said that if someone stole your car and used it to knock over an old granny, you couldn't be blamed.

Davis explained that someone else may have hacked the machine and used it as a zombie to share files, or someone else in the household, or even a visitor might have done the sharing without the knowledge of the computer owner. That might make it difficult for Davenport to pin the case on any individual, he said.

"They'll bully people into paying, I suspect. But if it goes to court there's no right or wrong answer and Davenport will have difficulty proving it, particularly where there's more than one person using a computer," he said.

"Ultimately, it's for the court to decide on the balance of probabilities if someone's done it."

Davis also said that Davenport appeared to be working on the assumption that its evidence of file sharing activity was flawless, which was not necessarily true.

He predicted that if a lot of people refused to roll over Davenport would take its strongest test case to court and then use that to "scare" other people into paying up.

Both Davenport and Zuxxez have told The Register they were using the swoop on alleged Pinball 3D sharers as a test before deciding whether to use the same tactics to pursue file sharers of other copyrighted software.

Davenport is thinking of setting up a specialist practice to represent copyright holders against file sharers. As a "volume" business, it has directed enquiries from the accused file sharers through a nameless telephone service. The firm did not say whether this had anything to do with keeping costs down, but did say it was worried about receiving abusive phone calls.

Davenport was not available to comment. ®

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