Anti-Piracy Law Firm Suffers E-Mail Leak

The controversial British law firm ACS:LAW suffered an embarrassing email leak this weekend that exposed a treasure trove of internal communications about its involvement in the pursuit of file sharers, as well as thousands of names of alleged infringers. ACS:Law’s web site was targeted by a denial-of-service attack coordinated by the members of the notorious 4chan message board last week, leading to a complete outage.

The company tried to restore its web presence late last week, but unintentionally opened up its entire server for the world to see. Pro-P2P activists quickly assembled a backup of the files and started to distribute it via various torrent sites. Various blogs and news sites have since started to comb through the files, and some of the findings are pretty interesting.

Torrentfreak  published detailed statistics this weekend, showing that ACS:Law sent more than 11,000 threatening letters to alleged file sharers. These letters generally demand a payment of £350 to £700. Recipients who don’t pay up are threatened with a copyright infringement lawsuit. The statistics quoted by Torrentfreak show that around 30 percent of users targeted chose to settle right away. Another 30 percent dispute the claims made against them, and 40 percent don’t reply at all. From Torrentfreak:

“Using figures now available though the email leak, we can see that by 28 April 2010 around $1m (£636,758.22) had been paid by the victims.”

Other emails show that ACS:Law is only targeting users of select British ISPs and that its own legal experts previously had doubts about a case that the company was boasting as a legal success story. ACS:Law was contacted by the BBC about the leak, but refused to comment on specific emails. The company’s web site remains offline.

Torrentfreak’s editor Ernesto said that ACS:Law can’t do much to respond to the leak at this point. “They might go after a few people to make a point,” he said when I contacted him today. After all, it’s a law office known to sue file sharers – so why not sue the people that share its emails via The Pirate Bay? However, Ernesto doubted that this would have much of an impact. “It would probably only cost them money,” he said.

However, ACS:Law might also find itself on the other side of an investigation as a result of the leak. The BBC is reporting that  British privacy watchdogs have started to look into the case after it became apparent that the leaked emails also contained the names and addresses of 5300 British Internet users who allegedly downloaded pornography, which were stored by ACS:Law as an unencrypted EXCEL file.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Rob Boudon.

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