U.K. Appeals Court Rules in Favor of Golden Eye

LONDON — A U.K. appeals court on Friday gave the green light for Golden Eye, an intellectual property protection firm that owns the rights to numerous adult film copyrights including the Ben Dover Productions line of movies, to get details on 6,155 O2 broadband customers fingered for illegally trading movies on BitTorrent networks.

The ruling, delivered by three senior Lord Justices, grants a Norwich Parmacal Order to Golden Eye requiring O2 to divulge personal details such as names and physical addresses relating to the 6,155 IP addresses.

Consumer Focus, a U.K. consumer protections group, earlier intervened with an appeal, telling the court that there were no grounds to pursue the 6,155 because Golden Eye didn't own the copyrights to movies involved in the suspected acts of piracy. At the time, a judge agreed with Consumer Focus, allowing Golden Eye to get information on only 2,845.

But Golden Eye appealed and on Friday came out victorious; now the firm will acquire details on all 9,000 IP addresses involved in the litigation.

The ruling is significant for Golden Eye because now the firm can pursue alleged infringers of not only its Ben Dover brand, but they can assist other companies protecting their copyrights.

"I am delighted that the Court of Appeal ruled in favor of Golden Eye, albeit that I am still confused that the initial ruling allowed us to act for Ben Dover but fell short in permitting the right to protect the other producers that I represent," Julian Becker, Golden Eye spokesman and Ben Dover producer, told XBIZ. "Having now studied the case, I'd like to say that there was more chance of the end of the world occurring on Dec. 21 than Golden Eye losing this appeal."

Becker said that while adult content is legal in the U.K. and should be given the same rights as mainstream films, it isn't.

"I believe there is always going to be a bias against this genre of film production," he said. "So although in legal terms we are actually no further forward than in 2010, Golden Eye has now been successful after the most severe of legal scrutiny, combined with bias and manipulation from some areas of the press and mistruths and lies from faceless keyboard warriors in several Internet forums."

Golden Eye in the past few years has been pummeled by legal challenges from Consumer Focus and the Open Rights Group, among others, who have insisted that the company is invading computer users' rights to privacy. Golden Eye also has been at the center of debate amongst the business and legal communities.

"In some respects Golden Eye finds itself back where it was two years ago, having correctly followed legal procedure after submitting technical evidence that has been accepted by the courts that there is an arguable case that Ben Dover and other rights holders content that we represent has been infringed by Internet users on file sharing networks and obtaining the names and addresses of these alleged infringers," said Becker, calling Friday's ruling a "positive judgment [that] is very much a bitter sweet, moment."

"Two years ago these cases were merely procedural and heard on paper without any formal hearings. This judgment has been debated by leading barristers, funded by government organizations and presided over by some of the most eminent judges in the U.K."