Thousands of O2 broadband customers will have their personal details revealed to a pornographer after it claimed they had downloaded its films illegally.
The High Court has ordered O2 to hand over the details of more than 9,000 of its broadband customers to Golden Eye International and Ben Dover Productions after they claimed the customers in question had illegally downloaded pornographic films.
Ben Dover is a pseudonym of Lindsay Honey, a British performer, director and producer of pornography, who set up Golden Eye International in 2009.
In its submission to the High Court, Golden Eye International said it "is prepared to give you [O2 customers] the opportunity to avoid legal action by proposing a settlement offer." The settlement included the promise by each of those accused not to illegally upload or download the films again in the future and to delete all works they may have obtained illegally.
The settlement also calls for the payment of £700 by each defendant, the judge in the case, Mr Justice Arnold, called this "unsupportable." Golden Eye International intended to send a letter demanding this payment to the customers implicated demanding payment within 14 days.
The Judge said this was "capable of causing unnecessary distress because it could be read as an implicit threat of publicity once proceedings have been commenced." O2 will however need to match 9,124 IP addresses that have been observed infringing Ben Dover Productions' copyright with its customer database and hand over personal details. A spokesman for O2 said: "Clearly we respect the court order and will therefore be co-operating fully."
Consumer Focus, which was allowed to intervene in the case on behalf of the O2 customers, told The Telegraph that although personal details will be released it had set an "important precedent" to protect internet users from so-called speculative invoicing by putting a greater burden of proof on the claimant.
"This case sets an important precedent for the rights of consumers, particularly those who are innocent, and the responsibilities of companies seeking redress on behalf of copyright owners," said chief executive Mike O'Connor.
"It is very welcome that the court has recognised the bill-payer should not be automatically assumed to be guilty when a copyright owner believes they have detected copyright infringement on that internet connection."