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Speculative invoicing and “pay up or else” schemes for copyright infringement

This page tells you how to recognise whether the letter claiming compensation for copyright infringement could be a scam and what to do if you suspect that misleading claims are being made to try and get you to pay out money.

If you've received a letter from Golden Eye International you should also read our advice on what to do if you're accused of copyright infringement.

What are speculative invoicing and "pay up or else" schemes?

Some unscrupulous solicitors and companies acting on behalf of copyright owners have taken part in practices known as speculative invoicing or “pay up or else” schemes. These schemes were based on a number of misleading claims which are not correct.

They targeted subscribers to internet services and demanded payment from them for copyright infringement to avoid having to go to court. Sometimes they tried to obtain money even where the subscriber was not liable for the alleged copyright infringement.

Solicitors engaging in these practices have since been disciplined by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

Misleading claims which may indicate the letter is a scam

“The Norwich Pharmacal Order which has been obtained to force your ISP to hand over your personal details means that the court has found you guilty”

In fact the court has simply found that there is an arguable case against you. This means that the copyright owner has produced evidence to suggest that your internet connection was used to infringe copyright. It doesn’t mean that the court has found you guilty of copyright infringement. Or that the copyright owner has proved their case beyond reasonable doubt.

“You are liable for any copyright infringement on your internet connection because you have allowed others to use it”

Allowing others to use your internet connection does not make you responsible for their actions of copyright infringement. You are only responsible for other people’s infringement if you have specifically authorized their acts of copyright infringement. It is not enough that you have authorised others to use your internet connection.

“We can get your Internet Service Provider to disconnect you from the internet”

If you receive a letter or email accusing you of copyright infringement and threatening to disconnect you from the internet, you should contact Ofcom to check whether the demand is genuine.

You can call Ofcom on 0300 123 3333 or 020 7981 3040 (Monday to Friday from 9.00am to 5.00pm).

What to do if you think the letter is a scam

If the copyright owner, exclusive licensee, their solicitor, or any other agent acting on their behalf is making these claims to try and pressure you into paying them money, they may be taking part in unfair commercial practices and they may be breaking the law.

If you receive a letter making any of these claims, you should report the copyright owner or company who has made the claim to Trading Standards, who may be able to take action against them.

Next steps

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