The Ministry of Sound is attempting to combat net piracy by targeting web users it believes have illegally downloaded digital copies of songs it owns the copyright to and asking them to pay around £350 in compensation.
Letters have been sent to some 2,000 people by lawyers Gallant Macmillan on behalf of the UK record label. The letters say that if the recipients refuse to pay the compensation, the record label will take them to court.
The Ministry of Sound isn't the first label to take tackling net piracy into its own hands. Earlier this year, ACS:Law sent out hundreds of similar letters on behalf of rights holders.
It is thought many recipients have chosen not to pay the compensation and simply ignored the letter, especially since at present, none of the recipients of previous letters have seen the case reach court. Some legal specialists say even if the cases reach court, rights holders can't prove web users have illegally downloaded the files in question, unless those accussed admit to it. However, the Ministry of Sound says similar court cases have been successful in Germany and therefore expects them to work in the UK too.
Record industry body the BPI has slammed the tactic of mass mailing those suspected of illegally downloading files.
"Our view is that legal action is best reserved for the most persistent or serious offenders - rather than widely used as a first response," BPI spokesman Adam Liversage.
"Perhaps as many as 10 percent of those receiving letters have paid up, but the rest have just disappeared. These firms are trying to argue that just because you pay for the internet connection you are somehow responsible for everything that is downloaded on it – whether you were responsible or not. It just doesn't stand up in law," Michael Coyle, MD of Lawdit, which has represented hundreds of people who have received these letters, told The Guardian.
"It seems to me that the only way a claim can be upheld is if you admit it or if they inspect your hard drive."