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Judge mulls 'wasted costs' as ACS:Law cases close

'Out of norm conduct' could mean payout for anti-piracy lawyers

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A London court yesterday officially closed the book on allegations of illegal file-sharing brought by ACS:Law against 26 defendants.

In February, senior patent court Judge Colin Birss QC heavily criticised the law firm for pursuing alleged file-sharers with threatening letters and then ditching the cases, which led to claims that ACS:Law never had any intention of bringing the "accused" to court.

Ralli Solicitors, which is representing five of the defendants in the cases, is seeking £90,000 in costs. The BBC reports that Judge Birss is mulling whether ACS:Law should pay up.

ACS:Law and its client Media CAT fired off thousands of threatening legal missives to alleged illegal file-sharers, offering them the chance to pay a £495 settlement rather than face going to trial.

Typically, judges do not demand "wasted costs" from legal representatives.

"If ever there was a case with conduct out of the norm it was this one," said Judge Birss, which seemed to indicate that ACS:Law may cop a hefty pay-out bill.

Andrew Crossley, who founded ACS:Law and is currently under investigation by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, was not in court on Wednesday. He said in January that he was quitting the cases that went to trial in a patent court in London earlier this year, citing "immense hassle" to him and his family.

Crossley's barrister Paul Parker said his client shouldn't be liable for the costs and claimed that Crossley had spent £750,000 on pursuing alleged online pirates. His firm was operating at a loss and made £300,000 from people who did pay the fines.

That figure suggests that more than 600 people paid up to avoid facing ACS:Law in court.

“Media CAT and ACS:Law have a very real interest in avoiding public scrutiny of the cause of action because in parallel to the 26 court cases, a wholesale letter-writing campaign is being conducted from which revenues are being generated," said the judge at a court hearing last month.

"This letter-writing exercise is founded on the threat of legal proceedings such as the claims before this court.” ®

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