Abandon All Fear

What nobody else seems to be saying…

Is ‘Web Sheriff’ just a Cowboy Outfit?

Posted by Lex Fear on September 2, 2007

Here’s a hypothetical question.

Web Sheriff is some asslochen on the internets issuing ‘legal’ threats to fans of music bands who have put up tracks for listening and promoting said bands on their websites and blogs.

I did some checking and discovered the “web sheriff” was set up by a company called Entertainment Law Associates which claims to offer “Business Affairs & Management Consultancy”. They claim to offer some vague legal services, but sound more like agents than lawyers, and in fact, on their front page, they feature the disclaimer:

“ELA is not a law firm (and indeed it must be emphasised that we are not practising solicitors)”

Interesting, considering that Mr John Giacobbi a.k.a. self-proclaimed “Web Sheriff” claims to be “protecting your rights on the internet”. Just look at the media quotes on the front page of Web Sheriff’s website:

“Web Sheriff, an organisation that patrols against infringements of intellectual rights and reputations” Sunday Times

“Web Sheriff, which patrols the internet for illegal music recordings on behalf of record companies” The Guardian

“Web Sheriff, an agency that policies online piracy of copyrights and trademarks” Mail on Sunday

They sound more like Wikipedia definitions than rave reviews, don’t you think? In fact, delve deeper into the site and see the services the Sheriff offers:

“Internet Auditing”

For the rest of us, this means ‘googling’.

“New Release Protection”

That means googling for a title before it’s released.

“On-line Rights Enforcement”

We write a threatening letter that we have no way of backing-up, apart from hiring real lawyers.

“On-line Rights Administration”

We show you how to set up a fan website.

Now for the hypothetical part…

A quick google round the internets will pull up lot’s of indexing services that list Web Sheriff in the ‘law’ category: here, here and here, even describing the Sheriff in terms of ‘legal enforcement’.

About 5 years ago (sorry, the only archive I could find in a short time) a prison officer narrowly escaped jail for sending fake legal letters. He faked the letters himself, threatening court action against the recipient. The letters were discovered to be fake after the recipient showed them to a real solicitor.

Since Web Sheriff is “not a law firm” and neither “practising solicitors”, presumably, letters written by Web Sheriff to someone sharing a music file on their website are also not legal letters. In fact, could it be argued that they are fake if they make certain claims or threaten legal action?

What would happen if someone was to take a letter written by Web Deputy, to their solicitor for clarification and that solicitor declared it to be a fake?

I don’t offer music tracks here, so I can’t test this hypothesis, however I would advise anyone who has recently received a letter from this pretender to immediately consult their solicitor and determine the legality of the letter in question (though, if I one day make enough money, I would gladly test this one).

Maybe we can get this Web Deviant hauled before the real Sheriffs office?


For a hilarious response to one of “Web Sheriff’s” threat letters (and ensuing dialogue), check out The Pirate Bay’s legal section.


One Response to “Is ‘Web Sheriff’ just a Cowboy Outfit?”

  1. Andy said

    Great link to Pirate Bay. One of the funniest things I’ve read in a long, long time.

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