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Judge orders O2 to name suspected smut burglars

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A top judge in Blighty has ordered telco Telefonica to hand over the names of O2 broadband customers suspected of sharing porn online.

In the High Court Mr Justice Arnold handed victory to copyright-chasing law firm Golden Eye International and the British smut-flick house Ben Dover Productions.

Telefonica (the parent company of O2) now has to cough up the names and addresses of the broadband punters that Golden Eye suspects spread Ben Dover's copyrighted grumble vids over peer-to-peer file-sharing networks.

Golden Eye collected the IP addresses of the alleged infringers, and now will be able to cross-reference them with O2's customer database. The ISP is required to keep logs of the IP addresses assigned to all punters for a year.

Golden Eye described itself as "the holder of numerous film copyrights" and argued that the "unlawful distribution of copyright material is detrimental to the film and creative industries". Golden Eye is the exclusive licensee of the films of Ben Dover Productions, described as "spunktastic hardcore" movies.

Ruling in their favour yesterday, Mr Justice Arnold judged that risque filmmakers had a right to protect their intellectual property:

The mere fact that the copyright works are pornographic films is no reason to refuse the grant of relief, since there is no suggestion that they are obscene or otherwise unlawful. Golden Eye and Ben Dover Productions have a good arguable case that many of the relevant Intended Defendants have infringed their copyrights.

The judge said that disclosure was necessary for the claimants to protect their interests, and that their right to protect their erotica outweighed the O2 customers' right to privacy.

The demands of 12 other British filmmakers and porn houses associated with the case, including SweetMeats, Easy on the Eye and One-Eyed Jack Film productions, were rejected as it was ruled that Golden Eye didn't have the rights to sue for profit on their behalf.

In the judgment Golden Eye came in for some stick for its ACS:Law-style tactics of sending out aggressive legal letters to people suspected of copyright infringement. Typical Golden Eye letters requested £700 from the recipient and threatened a court case if the affair was not settled.

A Telefonica-O2 spokesperson said: “Clearly we respect the court order and will therefore be cooperating fully.” ®

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