The U.K. High Court has ordered ten internet service providers to hand over the customer details of 150 individuals accused of illegally sharing software.
The court orders secured by the Federation Against Software Theft (FAST) followed a 12-month investigation into the covert sharing of software by PC users. Although most file sharers will use false names and email addresses, FAST said that, in the next two weeks, the ten ISPs will be forced to hand over full personal details, including names, addresses and dates of birth.
His Honour Judge Raynor said that there was "an overwhelming case" for ordering such customer details to be released.
Julian Heathcote Hobbins, senior legal counsel at FAST, said, "Traditionally most software owners have relied on notice and take-down procedures and have failed to bring civil or criminal proceedings against the infringers. The progress we made on Friday is only the first wave of an ongoing strategy. We expect to be bringing these actions anytime and anywhere we see software being misused".
John Lovelock, director general at FAST, added: "We can easily take down links, but this does not tackle the root causes of software piracy, because the links will reappear elsewhere in a matter of hours. Instead, we plan to take action a lot further, making an example of the perpetrators to stop them from stealing and passing on the intellectual property of our members for good."
The Federation vowed to work with the Police and Crown Prosecution Service once the individuals have been identified.
Targets individuals were identified by an undercover investigator, working covertly for FAST on a project codenamed Operation Tracker. The investigator is described an IT forensics expert, who has been hired to assist FAST in cracking down on the suppliers of illegal software.
Robin Fry from lawyers Beachcroft Wansbroughs acting for The FAST commented: "Using a fake identity will not protect you. With software theft costing the industry in excess of $1.7 billion - or 1 billion British pounds, per annum in the U.K. alone, you can run but you can't hide any longer."