Regulator to probe Davenport Lyons' P2P porn cash demands

Hot watchdog on watchdog action

Lawyers for the consumer rights lobby Which? have filed an official complaint to the body that regulates solicitors over Davenport Lyons' campaign of letters alleging illegal filesharing.

For several months Davenport Lyons has been sending letters to individuals accusing them of pirating videogames via peer-to-peer networks, and demanding £500 on behalf of rights holders. The London-based law firm recently branched out into threats on behalf of producers of hardcore gay porn.

Now Which?, formerly known as the Consumers' Association, has reported Davenport Lyons to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). Announcing the move, Which? said it had drawn regulators' attention to the detail of Davenport Lyons' letters. The complaint includes claims they "make incorrect assertions about the nature of copyright infringement; ignore the evidence presented in defence; and increase the level of compensation claimed over the period of correspondence".

A spokesman for the SRA today said it received the complaint on Monday afternoon and that it would be investigated. "The manner of the investigation depends on the content of the complaint. [Which?] provided us with a lot of information and it will be looked at by a caseworker."

Which? lawyers were also unhappy that Davenport Lyons tells its targets that failing to secure their internet connection, such as by operating an unencrypted Wi-Fi network, is grounds for legal action.

The group has been contacted by people accused by Davenport Lyons who say they have never used peer-to-peer software. Reports are emerging via defence solicitors of distressed pensioners being accused of illegal filesharing of movies such as Army Fuckers.

Amid the controversy over Davenport Lyons' campaign, The Register recently learned that one of its clients, the videogaming brand Atari, had dumped its services.

Deborah Prince, head of legal affairs at Which?, said: "We think the SRA needs to take urgent action against Davenport Lyons. In the current financial climate, we expect an increase in the action that companies may want to take against individuals."

At time of publication Davenport Lyons had not responded to a request for comment. ®

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