Andrew Crossley of ACS: Law, a U.K.-based law firm which sent out letters threatening thousands of alleged file-sharers with lawsuits if they didn't cough up £500 ($790), is walking away from the cases after receiving "death threats and bomb threats."
ACS: Law has been the subject of considerable controversy since it began sending out letters to alleged file-sharers on behalf of its client MediaCAT. A U.K. consumer group says innocent people have been caught up in the campaign, while some ISPs are refusing to cooperate with the law firm's demands for customer details. 26 cases files by ACS: Law are currently being looked at by the London patent court but now Crossley, who is in fact the firm's only registered lawyer, says he's walking away from it all.
"I have ceased my work... I have been subject to criminal attack. My e-mails have been hacked. I have had death threats and bomb threats," he said in a statement read to the court by MediaCAT lawyer Tim Ludbrook. "It has caused immense hassle to me and my family."
But a bigger problem for Crossley, and possibly a bigger motivation for his departure, is that people who have been targeted by the ACS: Law campaign may be able to pursue the firm for harassment. "It can be incredibly upsetting for people to receive these letters and they may well have a claim in harassment," said Michael Forrester of the law firm Ralli, which represents some of the defendants in the current case. ACS: Law's methods have also been criticized by groups like the British Phonographic Institute.
Crossley said in his statement that despite critics who claimed he simply wanted to threaten people into paying him off, he fully intended to litigate cases that weren't settled. But his client, MediaCAT, wants to drop the whole thing and has actually sent out notices to defendants telling them so. The judge in the matter said it wouldn't be quite so simple, however, and expressed curiosity about why the company was suddenly so eager to let things slide. "I am getting the impression with every twist and turn since I started looking at these cases that there is a desire to avoid any judicial scrutiny," he said.
Meanwhile, another law firm, CGB Ltd., has begun sending similar letters to people including one of the defendants who had received a letter from MediaCAT telling him the action had been dropped. The judge said he was considering prohibiting MediaCAT from sending any further letters to anyone until all issues in the matter had been resolved, in part because Crossley said in his statement that there would be no further correspondence with defendants and that CGB Ltd. had also stopped working on the cases. CGB Ltd. was founded by former employees of ASC: Law.