The computer games industry has launched an unprecedented assault on illegal downloads, demanding payment from thousands of families who obtained the latest releases over the internet without paying.
Five of the world’s top games developers will serve notice on 25,000 people across the UK, requiring each one to pay £300 immediately to settle out of court. Those who refuse risk being taken to court. The companies will target their initial legal actions on 500 people who ignore the letters.
The companies involved – Atari, Topware Interactive, Reality Pump, Techland and Codemasters – make some of the popular games, including The Lord of the Rings,the Colin McRae Rally series and Operation Flashpoint. It is estimated that as many as six million people in Britain share games illegally over the internet. The aggressive action marks a dramatic change in the approach to copyright on the internet. The British music industry, hit hard by illegal file-sharing, has taken action against just 150 people in ten years.
The game makers have appointed the law firm Davenport Lyons. This week Isabela Barwinska, an unemployed mother of two, became the first person in the UK to be ordered to pay damages to a manufacturer. She must pay more than £16,000 to Topware after downloading Dream Pinball through a file-sharing site.
Roger Billens, a partner at Davenport Lyons, said: “Our clients were incensed by the level of illegal downloading. In the first 14 days since Topware Interactive released Dream Pinball 3D it sold 800 legitimate copies but was illegally downloaded 12,000 times. Hopefully people will think twice if they risk being taken to court.”
The law firm is applying to the High Court for an order requiring internet service providers to hand over the names and addresses of 25,000 individuals suspected of illegally downloading computer games. They have already obtained almost 5,000 addresses after providing evidence that illegal file-sharing had taken place. The move has provoked strong criticism within the games industry. A source close to the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association said that most publishers would be reluctant to bring legal actions against their “core market” and would be likely to look for other ways to minimise losses due to piracy.
Sales of computer games are predicted to reach £2 billion in the UK this year. Sales of consoles such as the Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii are expected to hit 9.1 million, according to Screen Digest.
According to Peerland, which monitors games downloaded on three file-sharing websites, Operation Flashpoint was downloaded 691,324 times in one week. The most popular game was Battlefield 1942, which was accessed by almost 1.5 million people in seven days.
I'd say that I'd never purchase a game by any of those publishers ever again, but frankly I think that's a given. I've never even heard of three of them, and after the excrement that was Alone In The Dark, I wasn't going to be buying any more Atari titles anyway.
Anyone sued by Atari should consider counter-suing them over the state of Alone In The Dark. Surely no jury in the world would convict someone for "trying out" the product of a company which has a reputation for releasing games in an unfinished or broken state.
I must admit that this is the first time one of these lawsuit thingies has actually worried me; it does indeed appear that they're going after the casual downloader rather than the hardcore. Although I've never DLed any games from those companies it does set a worrying precedent.
Then again, the reactions to this seem to be universally negative. Other games companies have chosen not to suckerpunch their audience like this and the Times, not usually the most liberal if papers, condemned the act as attacking children and actually posted several ways to get out of paying the fine...
It's a fishing trip/legal scam being carried out by Davenport Lyons. It's been pretty well reported on the interweb.
Law firm Davenport Lyons will use this case, its first "volume" job to stalk file sharers, to launch a specialist practice. A partner at the firm, who preferred to remain anonymous for "security reasons" said Davenport had other publishers in the pipeline.
File sharers were reported under court orders served on 18 ISPs at Davenport's request after computer forensic experts associated their IP addresses as sources for downloaders of Dream Pinball 3D, a computer game that's unleashed in the UK - it goes on sale in June.
Letters sent to 500 file sharers in recent weeks recommended paying a £600 fine for sharing the £16.99 computer game on a peer-to-peer file sharing networks. Failure to pay would result in prosecution and potential court costs of "tens of thousands of pounds".
The [DL] partner refused to say how much his firm was being paid for pursuit of the file sharers, but the letter sent to them said £250 of the £600 fine being levied against them was to cover the solicitor's fee.
It's been rumbling on for a while now, but most UK game publishers are reluctant to bring cases to court, despite the threatening letters being sent out. It's almost equivalent to a legal way of 'demanding money with menaces'. This is the state of UK law at the moment. An absolute sham - the lawyers acting like f*cking pirates themselves.
I have never downloaded a game illegally (not for any moral reasons though) so this is not going to affect me. Seems a little heavy handed though and I don’t think its ever a good idea to bully, threaten and coerce "fines" from your customers.
It made me laugh though that Dream Pinball sold 800 copies in 14 days! Must be a real top quality title! Maybe without illegal downloading it might have sold 820!!