The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in Bristol has dropped a criminal film piracy case against a Glasgow man amid accusations that it relied almost exclusively on ev http://www.ipaware.net/images/FACT_logo_sml.jpg idence provided by the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT).
A CPS spokesman confirmed the decision to stop the criminal case against George Cartledge, saying it told the court, "it is neither necessary nor appropriate to continue to pursue this matter in a criminal court."
A spokesman for FACT declined to comment on the case.
Police charged Cartledge in 2009 with conspiracy to defraud as a result of his being an administrator of a film lovers' internet forum, FileSoup.
Police alleged he conspired with FileSoup users to infringe copyright by authorising distribution of three US films through the website.
The defence, led by specialist solicitors Burrows Bussin, contended that the prosecution could not prove the elements of the offences or provide any evidence to show that copyright was actually infringed or that FileSoup was involved in any distribution.
Burrows Bussin spokesman Dave Cook said the police and CPS relied almost exclusively on information provided by FACT. "The duty is on the police and the prosecuting authority to independently investigate alleged offences. They simply did not appear to do so in this case," he said.
Cook said FACT was funded by the film industry. "It was they who controlled this investigation. Little or nothing independent was carried out by the police. FACT's role was effectively that of investigators, witnesses and experts in their own case," he said. "Amazingly, the prosecutor did not even seize the FileSoup server, which held the entire contents of the website."
Cook said copyright holders were entitled to the protection of the law, but it was important too that the prosecution was impartial and independent.
Cook said the CPS could not at first decide which charges to prosecute. "When we pushed them, they did not know whether to prosecute this case as a business or not, or whether the copyright holder was caused prejudice or not," he said.
Cook said FACT had already prosecuted the person who had originally put "X-Men Origins: Wolverine", one of the films allegedly distributed illegally by Cartledge, on the internet.
"The leaked film was an early workprint and contained forensic markings in the images, which allowed it to be traced back to a graphic design team who were working on the special effects," Cook said. A man was prosecuted in a federal court in Manhattan in 2009 for copyright violation.
But the film circulated on the internet for some time and its distribution was widespread, Cook said. FACT then decided to prosecute Cartledge, who was the systems administrator for FileSoup, a non-profit making community forum of film buffs, he said. "This prosecution was not directed at the person responsible for any loss or to blame for any leaks," he said.
Cook criticised FACT for pursuing Cartledge, who, he said, derived no benefit from his involvement with FileSoup, a non-commercial and non-profit enterprise.
Burrows Bussin had earlier defended successfully a 17-year-old boy who was alleged by the music industry association BPI to have found four albums on the internet and moved them onto the Oink forums.
"The rights-holder groups target the people with the least chance of resisting a prosecution of this nature, those with no commercial gain and therefore little funds to defend such a case," Cook said.
"They are prosecuting the very people who spend significant amounts of their time and money in pursuing their interests in music and film. It certainly appears that rights-holder groups are avoiding taking on those with funds at their disposal, it may well be for fear of them exposing the manner in the way in which these groups go about such investigations," he said.
Cook said the defence budget was based on a page count of disclosed material controlled by FACT. There were so few pages that the defence budget was only £4,000, he said.
Cook said British taxpayers had born all costs of the aborted case. The CPS spokesman said total costs were probably less than £10,000.