Solicitors face tribunal over internet copyright claims

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The Independent Online

Two lawyers who chased people over illegally copied porn films and computer games are to appear before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal for trying to use their positions of trust to take "unfair advantage of other persons".

Davenport Lyons partners David Gore (who has represented Sting and Jonathan Dimbleby) and Brian Millar (who has since left the London firm), allegedly sent more than 6,000 letters to web users threatening legal action in what critics called a "bounty hunter" operation. But the data used by Davenport Lyons showed only who paid the internet bills, not who downloaded the content. On an unsecured Wi-Fi connection, that could be anyone.

The legal watchdog, the Solicitors Regulation Authority, will claim that the men knew that some of their victims could be innocent but went ahead anyway. The case is to go before a tribunal in May. If it rules against them, Mr Gore and Mr Millar could be fined, suspended or struck off the roll.

The watchdog's statement to the tribunal named a German client of the firm which owns the copyright on a gay porn film called Army Fuckers. A letter of claim from Davenport Lyons regarding the film has been seen by The IoS.

Michael Coyle, a copyright solicitor who has represented 150 of Davenport Lyons's targets, said the letters usually demanded payment of £400 to £700, less than it would cost to hire a lawyer to fight the claims. The letters can be embarrassing. "One of my clients was a mum who only discovered her son was gay when she got a letter from Davenport," he said.

Davenport Lyons declined to comment on the case.