If a copyright owner or their agent is threatening or pressuring you to pay compensation
This page tells you what to do if you think that you are being put under pressure to pay money to a copyright owner, exclusive licensee, solicitor or agent acting on their behalf.
What action is the copyright owner entitled to take
If you deny the claim of copyright infringement, but the copyright owner doesn't accept your explanation, they still have a right to take you to court, where they have to prove the claim. However, they do not have a right to pressurise you into paying sums of money.
Even if you've committed the alleged infringement, you're under no obligation to accept the settlement sum proposed by the copyright owner if you believe it is disproportionate to your infringement.
Copyright owners who claim financial loss need to provide an explanation of how they have calculated the amount. The settlement sum should be reasonable and proportionate to the copyright infringement you've admitted to.
You can write to the copyright owner in response to any letters from them asking them to provide the details of your alleged infringement.
Unfair commercial practices
If the copyright owner, exclusive licensee, solicitor or agent is putting pressure on you to pay them money for alleged infringement, they may be taking part in unfair commercial practices or aggressive practices. These include misleading you, or harassing you to try and make you pay compensation when you don't need to.
Misleading practices include:
- pursuing you for money you don't owe because you've not committed the alleged infringement
- implying that legal action can be taken when it can't. For example, claiming that you're liable for any infringement on your internet connection
- claiming they can get your Internet Service Provider (ISP) to disconnect you
- giving the impression that court action has been taken against you when it hasn't. For example, claiming that the court has found you guilty of copyright infringement when granting a Norwich Pharmacal order which only gives permission for the ISP provider to provide your details to the copyright owner.
Aggressive practices which may amount to harassment include:
- contacting you several times a day, or early in the morning or late at night
- pursuing you on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook
- threatening you physically or verbally
- trying to, or threatening to, embarrass you publicly.
What to do if you think you are a victim of unfair commercial practice
Collect evidence of what you believe are misleading claims, aggressive practices or harassment. This includes:
- recording all the calls you receive with dates and times
- keeping notes of what was said and who you spoke to
- keeping any letters or documents you've received.
If you think a solicitor is taking part in unfair commercial practices
If a solicitor is making misleading claims to pressurise you into paying compensation, or if you feel you're subject to aggressive or harassing actions, you can make a complaint against the solicitor for breach of the solicitors’ Code of Conduct.
If you think the copyright owner or exclusive licensee is taking part in unfair commercial practice
If a copyright owner or exclusive licensee is making misleading claims to try to pressurise you into paying compensation, or if you feel you're subject to aggressive or harassing actions, complain to the Citizens Advice consumer service who can refer it to Trading Standards.
Reporting a problem to the Citizens Advice consumer service
To make a complaint about unfair commercial practices, which include misleading and aggressive practices, contact the Citizens Advice consumer service. They can offer advice and pass your complaint onto your local Trading Standards Office, who may be able to take further action.