London police start to target pirate websites

P. John made this Freedom of Information request to City of London Police

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was partially successful.

Dear City of London Police,

I was bemused to read that (according to the BBC) CoL police have been contacting websites believed to be profiting by breaking copyright laws.

According to a CoL police statement; "Intellectual property crime is a serious offence that is costing the UK economy hundreds of millions of pounds each year". A sentiment with which I agree.

You may recall, similar complaints were made to CoL police in 2008 about mass commercial copyright thefts by BT/Phorm... but those complaints were treated with open contempt by the investigating officer.

BT/Phorm engaged in a covert UK wide industrial espionage scam over a three year period, unhindered by law enforcement. Indeed, Phorm - based in London - continue to copy & commercially exploit the content of UK telecommunications with Turkey & Brazil without troubling to obtain a copyright licence beforehand. I believe that is an offence (s107/s109 CDPA 1988).

So obviously, in theory, I might complain to CoL police. But apparently there isn't much point unless I make a corresponding offer of lunch. And I'm not prepared to be so generous.

So concerning this recent initiative, please could you disclose to me;-

1) The names of the web sites so contacted by this initiative
2) The letters sent to those web sites, redacted as necessary
3) Confirm or deny the involvement of DS Barry Murray in the present campaign/investigation

I understand "the initiative came out of work done with UK advertisers" among others. Please could you also

4) List the 'UK advertisers' who were involved in the initiative
5) Confirm or deny that those UK Advertisers included your hospitality provider, luncheon hosts, and one-time criminal suspects Phorm

I remain at a loss to understand why no action was taken against the criminals responsible for the BT/Phorm affair.

regards
P John

Skinner Bradley,

NOT PROTECTIVELY MARKED

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Dear P. John,

 

REQUEST FOR INFORMATION REF:  COL/13/453

 

I write in connection with your request for information dated 06 June 2013
in which you seek access to the following information:

 

1) The names of the web sites so contacted by this initiative

 

2) The letters sent to those web sites, redacted as necessary

 

3) Confirm or deny the involvement of DS Barry Murray in the present
campaign/investigation

 

I understand "the initiative came out of work done with UK advertisers"
among others. Please could you also 

 

4) List the 'UK advertisers' who were involved in the initiative

 

5) Confirm or deny that those UK Advertisers included your  hospitality
provider, luncheon hosts, and one-time criminal suspects Phorm

 

As a requirement under Section 8 of The Freedom of Information Act 2000
and in order for us to proceed with your request we need you to provide us
with your full name.  

 

Please reply to this e-mail with these details.

 

Should you have any further questions regarding your request, please
contact me via e-mail, letter or telephone, quoting the reference number
above.

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

Bradley Skinner

 

Information Access Officer

City of London Police

 

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Dear Mr Skinner,

you should have received an initial and surname below the words 'your's faithfully'. (The 'P' stands for 'Peter', but friends will often call me 'Pete').

Would you prefer I address you as Bradley, or Mr Skinner?

I look forward to receiving your answers to my Freedom of
Information Request.

Yours sincerely,
P. John

Dear Mr Skinner,

Concerning my FoI request 'London police start to target pirate websites', City of London Police should have responded promptly and no later than 4 July 2013.

Please could you provide the information requested in the next 24 hours, else a complaint to the Information Commissioner will follow.

Yours sincerely,

P. John

Lockyear David,

Classification: NOT PROTECTIVELY MARKED

Dear Mr John

 

I refer to your request for information relating to Intellectual property
crime.  We are currently considering the public interest in disclosure and
it has not been possible to complete this work within 20 working days.  We
will provide a substantive response as soon as possible and in any event,
within 40 working days of receipt of the original request.

 

Please accept my apologies for this delay.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

 

 

Dave Lockyear

Information Access Manager

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Dear Mr Lockyear,

Concerning my FoI request (entitled 'London police start to target pirate websites') you told me; "We will provide a substantive response as soon as possible and in any event, within 40 working days of receipt of the original request."

Over 40 days have now elapsed since my original request to you on 6 June 2013, and I have yet to receive any of the information requested.

A complaint will be sent to the Information Commissioner this afternoon. I regret I did not do so earlier.

Yours sincerely,

P. John

Lockyear David,

I will be away from the office from Wednesday 7th until Monday 26th
August. Please contact Katy Grunblat, ext 2287 if you require an urgent
response.

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P. John left an annotation ()

Complaint sent to ICO 15/8/2013.

P. John left an annotation ()

Acknowledgement received from ICO dated 21 August 2013
ICO Case Reference Number FS50509715

Dear Mr Lockyear,

another reminder, concerning my FoI request (entitled 'London police start to target pirate websites') you told me; "We will provide a substantive response as soon as possible and in any event, within 40 working days of receipt of the original request."

Over 40 days have now elapsed since my original request to you on 6 June 2013, and I have yet to receive any of the information requested.

A complaint has been sent to the Information Commissioner (ref FS50509715). In the interim, you could obviously take steps to remediate. You are presently breaking the law.

Yours sincerely,

P. John

Dear Mr Lockyear,

another week goes by, and I have still yet to receive the information requested from you in June ('London police start to target pirate websites').

Please could you tell me, when do you propose to meet your obligations under the FoIA?

many thanks,
Yours faithfully,

P. John

Lockyear David,

3 Attachments

Classification: NOT PROTECTIVELY MARKED

Dear Mr John

 

REQUEST FOR INFORMATION REF:  COL/13/453

 

I write in connection with your request for information dated 6 June 2013
in which you seek access to the following information:

 

I was bemused to read that (according to the BBC) CoL police have been
contacting websites believed to be profiting by breaking copyright laws.

 

According to a CoL police statement; "Intellectual property crime is a
serious offence that is costing the UK economy hundreds of millions of
pounds each year". A sentiment with which I agree.

 

You may recall, similar complaints were made to CoL police in 2008 about
mass commercial copyright thefts by BT/Phorm, but those complaints were
treated with open contempt by the investigating officer.

 

BT/Phorm engaged in a covert UK wide industrial espionage scam over a
three year period, unhindered by law enforcement. Indeed, Phorm - based in
London - continue to copy & commercially exploit the content of UK
telecommunications with Turkey & Brazil without troubling to obtain a
copyright licence beforehand. I believe that is an offence (s107/s109 CDPA
1988).

 

So obviously, in theory, I might complain to CoL police. But apparently
there isn't much point unless I make a corresponding offer of lunch. And
I'm not prepared to be so generous.

 

So concerning this recent initiative, please could you disclose to me;-

 

1.    The names of the web sites so contacted by this initiative

 

See below.

 

2.    The letters sent to those web sites, redacted as necessary

 

It is our view that the exemption contained in Section 30 of the Freedom
of Information Act – Investigations, is engaged in respect of this
question.  However, it is noted that copies of the letter have been posted
on line by at least one recipient and we do not therefore believe that the
public interest favours non-disclosure.  A copy of the letter is attached.

 

3.    Confirm or deny the involvement of DS Barry Murray in the present
campaign/investigation

 

DS Murray is not involved in investigation.

 

I understand "the initiative came out of work done with UK advertisers"
among others. Please could you also

 

4.    List the 'UK advertisers' who were involved in the initiative

 

Questions 1 and 4

 

I confirm that information relating to questions 1 and 4 is held by the
City of London Police.

 

It is our decision that this information is subject to an exemption in
accordance with section 30 of the Freedom of Information Act –
Investigations.

 

Information is exempt by virtue of section 30 where it has, at any time,
been held for the purpose of an investigation.  This is a class-based
exemption and it is not necessary to demonstrate the potential for harm to
occur.  It is however a qualified exemption subject to an assessment of
the public interest and the factors favouring disclosure and
non-disclosure are listed below.

 

Assessment of the public interest

 

Factors favouring disclosure

 

Disclosure would identify the names of those organisations being
investigated, or in the case of advertisers, assisting with the
investigation.  This would allow the public to assess the scale of the
fraud and allow individuals to make more informed choices in respect of
any dealings they may have with the identified companies.

 

Factors favouring non-disclosure

 

This is an ongoing investigation and disclosure to the public domain would
raise the profile of those sites unlawfully providing copyright material. 
This would enable individuals to visit the sites highlighted and
unlawfully download copyright material and increase the scale of the
loss.  In the case of advertisers, public identification would increase
the risk of harm to them by way of cyber attack or other means.

 

Balancing the public interest

 

Whilst disclosure would raise awareness of copyright fraud activity in
relation to specific organisations, we believe that the benefit is
outweighed by the harm that would result to this and future
investigations.  It is therefore our view that the public interest does
not favour disclosure at this time.

 

5.    Confirm or deny that those UK Advertisers included your  hospitality
provider, luncheon hosts, and one-time criminal suspects Phorm

 

I remain at a loss to understand why no action was taken against the
criminals responsible for the BT/Phorm affair.

 

Public Authorities are subject to two duties in respect of Section 1 of
the Freedom of Information Act.  The first is to confirm whether or not
the requested information is held (subsection 1 (a)) and the second is to
disclose the information if it is (subsection 1 (b)).  Both requirements
are subject to exemptions and where exemptions are applied, section 17 of
the Act requires that we provide the applicant with a notice which a)
states that fact b) specifies the exemption(s) in question and c) states,
if that would not otherwise be apparent, why the exemption applies.

 

The City of London Police can neither confirm nor deny that information is
held relating to this question as the duty in section 1(1) (a) of the
Freedom of Information Act does not apply, by virtue of Section 30 of the
Freedom of Information Act – Investigations.

 

Information is exempt by virtue of section 30 where it has, at any time,
been held for the purpose of an investigation.  The duty to confirm or
deny does not arise in relation to information which is exempt by virtue
of this section.  This is a class-based exemption and it is not necessary
to demonstrate the potential for harm to occur.  It is however a qualified
exemption subject to an assessment of the public interest and the factors
favouring confirmation and non-confirmation that the information is held
or not held are listed below.

 

Assessment of the public interest

 

Factors favouring confirmation or denial that the information is held

 

Confirmation or denial would inform individuals whether or not a named
company was subject of investigation and allow those individuals to make
more informed choices in respect of any dealings they may have with the
named company.

 

Factors not favouring confirmation or denial that the information is held

 

If information were held, confirmation would highlight the involvement of
a named company in copyright fraud.  This would enable individuals to
visit the site highlighted and unlawfully download copyright material and
increase the scale of the loss.  In the event that information was not
held and the company was in involved in Fraud, denial would enable the
company to continue its behaviour in the knowledge that no Police action
was imminent.

 

 

Please accept my apologies for the delay in replying to your request which
is a result of lack of resources and the need to assess the public
interest in disclosure.  Should you have any further questions, please
contact me via e-mail, letter or telephone, quoting the reference number
above.

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

 

 

Dave Lockyear

Information Access Manager

P Please consider the environment before printing my email

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Simon whittaker left an annotation ()

Hi there,

you may want to check out this techdirt article about the copyright initiative being undertaken by the city of london police. As you'll see from the doc at the bottom of the page they list the document as _not_ being exempt from FOI so should release the information about "pirate" websites that they have contacted.

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/201310...

Dear Mr Lockyear,

many thanks for your response.

I hope you enjoy your lunch, whoever pays the bill. I know your colleague DS Murray has a hearty appetite. They say there is no such thing as a free lunch.

Yours sincerely,

P. John