MPAA Sues Man Over Movies It Can't Find

from the burden-of-proof dept

One big point of contention concerning most of the lawsuits filed by the entertainment industry against file sharers concerns the burden of proof. The entertainment industry wants people to believe that all they need to show is that an unauthorized file was shared from a specific IP address which was assigned to a certain account paid for by whoever it is they're suing. Plenty of others question whether that's enough. There are an awful lot of variables in there that suggest the entertainment industry hasn't proved very much at all. First, they need proof that the file was actually infringing -- just looking at the name clearly is not enough and can lead to embarrassments for the industry. Second, they need proof that it was actually distributed (just offering it up for sharing might not be enough -- you can offer it, but if no one took it, have you actually distributed anything?). Third, there should be proof concerning who is actually at fault. An IP address doesn't identify anyone. It simply tells you the account. There could be multiple computers and multiple users. While the entertainment industry seems to think the owner of the account must be responsible, some courts appear skeptical. If the industry really wants to stop the people who are guilty of copyright infringement, it would seem that they would need to be able to prove all of those factors before the defendant needs to state a defense. Instead, they're going with their original plan, and it's leading to some problems. We've already covered some of the recent lawsuits, but the latest, as pointed out by Slashdot, is a man who is being sued by Paramount for $100,000 on charges he shared a movie over eDonkey. There's just one problem. Paramount checked out all of the guy's computers (four of them) and the movie doesn't appear to be on any of them. Paramount claims that the guy deleted the evidence -- but, once again, wouldn't it seem that the burden of proof should be on the movie industry to prove that, rather than baseless accusations? The guy, for his part, says he has no idea what happened and guesses that someone used his WiFi. He goes on to say this is a reason why you should secure your WiFi, but it's more accurate to say it's a reason why there's plenty of reasonable doubt as to why he might be guilty.


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  1.  
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    Sissy Pants, Dec 14th, 2005 @ 5:06am

    Good Points

    Just because you bought a car, registered the car, and insured the car... doesn't mean you get in trouble if someone wrecks the car...

     

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  2.  
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    Aaron de Oliveira (profile), Dec 14th, 2005 @ 5:10am

    No Subject Given

    I read the linked article and it seems a much a come on for a wifi security package as anything else. Secure your wifi or some organization will come and sue you.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 14th, 2005 @ 5:42am

    No Subject Given

    One small comment on part of this post that may be relatively unimportant, but could be misleading. In criminal trials, the burden of proof for the prosecution is beyond a reasonable doubt. However, as this site has noted many times, these cases the RIAA and MPAA are filing are not criminal cases, they are civilcase , where the burden is always lower than reasonable doubt. The industries would only have to prove the person shared the file by either clear and convincing evidence or by a preponderance of the evidence (which means they only have to show it is more likely than not that the person did it). I'm not sure which of those standards it is in these cases, but either one is a lower burden to prove than reasonable doubt. This doesn't change the main point of this post at all, but I just thought that should be clarified, since the standard of proof could be pretty important.

     

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  4.  
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    PixelPusher220, Dec 14th, 2005 @ 6:29am

    Re: Good Points

    But if your car is seen robbing a bank...they damn well are going to come talk to you. It's up to you to prove that you lent it to your friend Vinny that day and that they should talk to him. (oh and you better have a decent alibi as to why it couldn't have been you!).

    Seriously, whoever has signed up for the acct is legally responsible for it's use, case closed.

     

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  5.  
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    dafourthhorseman, Dec 14th, 2005 @ 7:16am

    what if

    there are some with enough knowledge of networking that they could pretty much host a file on your machine without you even knowing it. This to me is a major issue, if someone had access to anothers computer without them knowing it and they set it up to host the movie then why should the unsuspecting host receive the punishment, but good luck proving any of that huh. Just cause an IP points to a machine it doesnt mean that is who committed the action.

     

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  6.  
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    whosawhat?, Dec 14th, 2005 @ 7:29am

    Re: what if

    I agree. I recently had to help my brother out. He had 20 gig of data on his hard drive that wasn't his and was being accessed 100% of the time his system was on.

    He had many things on there including full movies, music, games, and applications. It seems someone managed to gain full access to his system.

    I know he didn't put those files there or download them because he is pretty much computer iliterate and only uses his system for chatting and e-mail with the rest of the family.

    It's up to the RIAA (or any other group) to prove I did it. In this case, they can't.

     

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  7.  
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    steve, Dec 14th, 2005 @ 7:38am

    isn't an ip address is like a phone number?

    If someone calls into a radio station and slanders someone, and it's traced back to a phone number, is the owner of the phone service charged with slander, or do they have to find the person who made the call?

     

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  8.  
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    NonDeskript, Dec 14th, 2005 @ 8:36am

    Re: Good Points

    If someone makes threatening phone calls on my phone line, its not enough proof to charge me with making the calls. This is the same as that.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 14th, 2005 @ 9:22am

    Re: Good Points

    No really the same thing, robbing the bank is armed theft. If I recall correctly,
    it was shown that this is copy right infringment, specifically NOT theft. To get
    back to your example, this is more like someone borrowed your car and did
    some drive-by plagiarism. The cops wouldn't come looking for you, they'd
    probably laugh at the person bringing the charge against you.

     

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  10.  
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    Mike (profile), Dec 14th, 2005 @ 9:24am

    Re: Good Points

    But if your car is seen robbing a bank...they damn well are going to come talk to you. It's up to you to prove that you lent it to your friend Vinny that day and that they should talk to him. (oh and you better have a decent alibi as to why it couldn't have been you!).

    If they just saw your car, they may have enough to come talk to you, but they definitely don't have enough to prosecute. They know they'd lose that case in an instant.

    Seriously, whoever has signed up for the acct is legally responsible for it's use, case closed.

    Um. No. That's completely false, which was the point of this post. Owning the account does not make you responsible for its use, in the same way that being an ISP does not make you responsible for what your customers use it for.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
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    Steve, Dec 14th, 2005 @ 10:25am

    Re: Good Points

    "But if your car is seen robbing a bank...they damn well are going to come talk to you. It's up to you to prove that you lent it to your friend Vinny that day and that they should talk to him. (oh and you better have a decent alibi as to why it couldn't have been you!). Hopefully, if you were charged with robbing a bank, the they would have more proof than someone saw your car there, because that is what they are doing. They are suing someone based solely on the ip address of a cable modem, as reported by a third party (ISP)

     

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