Ten internet service providers have been ordered by the High Court to hand over customer details of 150 individuals alleged to have illegally shared software.
The court orders secured by the Federation Against Software Theft (FAST) follows a 12-month investigation into the sharing of software by PC users.
The ISPs that are the subject of the court order include Tiscali, BT, Telewest and NTL.
Most illegal file sharers use false names. In the next two weeks, the 10 ISPs will hand over to FAST full personal details, including names, addresses and dates of birth, of the alleged wrongdoers.
Julian Heathcote Hobbins, FAST senior legal counsel, said, “Traditionally, most software owners have relied on notice and take-down procedures, and have failed to bring civil or criminal proceedings against the infringers.
“The progress we have made in court is only the first wave of an ongoing strategy. We expect to be bringing legal actions anytime, and anywhere we see software being misused,” he said.
John Lovelock, FAST director general, said, “We can easily take down links, but this does not tackle the root causes of software piracy, because the links will reappear elsewhere in a matter of hours.
“Instead, we plan to take action a lot further, making an example of the perpetrators to stop them from stealing and passing on the intellectual property of our members for good.”
FAST said it would be working with the police and Crown Prosecution Service once the individuals have been identified.
Targets for the FAST cases have been identified by a FAST undercover investigator, who is said to be an IT forensics expert.
Penalties for the illegal communication to the public of copyrighted works, including software, can attract a maximum punishment of up to two years imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.