A copyright troll outfit in the UK, which has been trying to extract payments from alleged pirates for years, is having another bite at the cherry. Golden Eye International is writing to people who previously refused to pay up, citing a separate case in which an individual agreed to pay them £1000 after a court battle. But, as always, the company is only revealing half the story.
Our coverage of Golden Eye International dates back more than five years. Much like similar companies in the copyright troll niche, the outfit monitors BitTorrent swarms, collects IP addresses, and then heads off to court to obtain alleged pirates’ identities.
From there it sends letters threatening legal action, unless recipients pay a ‘fine’ of hundreds of pounds to settle an alleged porn piracy case. While some people pay up, others refuse to do so on the basis they are innocent, the ISP bill payer, or simply to have their day in court. Needless to say, a full-on court battle on the merits is never on the agenda.
Having gone quiet for an extended period of time, it was assumed that Golden Eye had outrun its usefulness as a ‘fine’ collection outfit. Just lately, however, there are signs that the company is having another go at reviving old cases against people who previously refused to pay.
A post on Slyck forums, which runs a support thread for people targeted by trolls, reveals the strategy.
“I dealt with these Monkeys last year. I spent 5 weeks practically arguing with them. They claim they have to prove it based on the balance of probability’s [sic]. I argue that they actually have to prove it was me,” ‘Matt’ wrote in August.
“It wasn’t me, and despite giving them reasonable doubt it wasn’t me. (I’m Gay… why would I be downloading straight porn?) They still persuaded it, trying to dismiss anything that cast any doubt on their claim. The emails finished how I figured they would…. They were going to send court documentation. It never arrived.”
After months of silence, at the end of August this year ‘Matt’ says GoldenEye got in touch again, suggesting that a conclusion to another copyright case might encourage him to cough up. He says that Golden Eye contacted him saying that someone settled out of court with TCYK, another copyright troll, for £1,000.
“My thoughts…Idiots and doubt it,” ‘Matt’ said. “Honestly, I almost cried I thought I had got rid of these trolls and they are back for round two.”
This wasn’t an isolated case. Another recipient of a Golden Eye threat also revealed getting contacted by the company, also with fresh pressure to pay.
“You may be interested to know that a solicitor, acting on behalf of Robert Kemble in a claim similar to ours but brought by TCYK LLC, entered into an agreement to settle the court case by paying £1,000,” Golden Eye told the individual.
“In view of the agreement reached in the Kemble case, we would invite you to reconsider your position as to whether you would like to reach settlement with us. We would point out, that, despite the terms of settlement in the Kemble case, we remain prepared to stand by our original offer of settlement with you, that is payment of £500.00.”
After last corresponding with the Golden Eye in January after repeated denials, new contact from the company would be worrying for anyone. It certainly affected this person negatively.
“I am now at a loss and don’t know what more I can do. I do not want to settle this, but also I cannot afford a solicitor. Any further advice would be gratefully appreciated as [i’m] now having panic attacks,” the person wrote.
After citing the Robert Kemble case, one might think that Golden Eye would be good enough to explain the full situation. They didn’t – so let’s help them a little bit in that respect, to help their targets make an informed decision.
Robert Kemble was a customer of Sky Broadband. TCYK, in conjunction with UK-based Hatton and Berkeley, sent a letter to Kemble in July 2015 asking him to pay a ‘fine’ for alleged Internet piracy of the Robert Redford movie The Company You Keep, way back in April 2013.
So far, so ordinary – but here’s the big deal.
Unlike the people being re-targeted by Golden Eye this time around, Kemble admitted in writing that infringement had been going on via his account.
In a response, Kemble told TCYK that he was shocked to receive their letter but after speaking to people in his household, had discovered that a child had been downloading films. He didn’t say that the Redford film was among them but he apologized to the companies all the same. Clearly, that wasn’t going to be enough.
In August 2015, TCYK wrote back to Kemble, effectively holding him responsible for other people’s actions while demanding a settlement of £600 to be paid to third-party company, Ranger Bay Limited.
“The child who is responsible for the infringement should sign the undertakings in our letter to you. Please when replying specify clearly on the undertakings the child’s full name and age,” the company later wrote. Nice.
What took place next was a round of letter tennis between Kemble’s solicitor and those acting for TCYK, with the latter insisting that Kemble had already admitted infringement (or authorizing the same) and demanding around £2000 to settle the case at this later stage.
With no settlement forthcoming, TCYK demanded £5,000 in the small claims court.
“The Defendant has admitted that his internet address has been used to infringe the Claimant’s copyright whereby, through the Defendant’s licencees’ use of the Defendant’s internet address, he acquired the Work and then communicated the Work in a digital form via the internet to the public without the license or consent of the Claimant,” the TCYK claim form reads.
TorrentFreak understands that the court process that followed didn’t center on the merits of the infringement case, but procedural matters over how the case was handled. On this front, Kemble failed in his efforts to have the case – which was heard almost a year ago – decided in his favor.
Now, according to Golden Eye at least, Kemble has settled with TCYK for £1000, which is just £300 more than their final pre-court offer. Hardly sounds like good value for money.
The main point, though, is that this case wouldn’t have gotten anywhere near a court if Kemble hadn’t admitted liability of sorts in the early stages. This is a freak case in all respects and has no bearing on anyone’s individual case, especially those who haven’t admitted liability.
So, for people getting re-hounded by Golden Eye now, remember the Golden Rule. If you’re innocent, by all means tell them, and stick to your guns. But, at your peril tell them anything else on top, or risk having it used against you.