Many Innocent Users Sent Pre-Settlement Letters Demanding Payment For Infringement

from the borderline-extortion dept

We've already discussed how operations like DigiProtect and ACS:Law are operating a rather questionable business of purposely putting content online, tracking the IP addresses of anyone who downloads that content, and then sending letters demanding payment to avoid a lawsuit. While it's not clear if any of these lawsuits are ever filed, many people are frightened into just paying up, even if they've done nothing wrong. And, in fact, it appears that many innocent users are receiving these letters, in such a blanket campaign. While some may call it "collateral damage" if a small percentage of innocent people receive these letters, it's still quite problematic, and a highly questionable business practice.


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  1.  
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    PaulT (profile), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 12:05am

    This is the exact reason why I'm totally again "3 strikes" and other similar schemes. Even when making what are essentially idle threats, the labels can't pick the correct targets. A person's internet connection should not be subject to such baseless threats.

     

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  2.  
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    Doge (profile), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 12:36am

    Did they pay?

    The content that ACS:law put online was, I presume, their copyright or they have paid the owner for every download they accuse people of?

     

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  3.  
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    The Anti-Mike (profile), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 1:04am

    Re:

    Paul, I think that there is more to this story, which would greatly change things.

    Example: for the 78 year old that got the letter, how does he access the internet? Does he use a wireless and a laptop? If he uses a desktop instead, has he ever had anyone stay over at his home? Perhaps a child or even a grandchild used his computer to download stuff? Is his computer connection perhaps shared with other flatmates, or similar?

    It is easy for people to say "I didn't do it" or use the good old SODDI (the online version of "two black youths"). I suspect in most of the cases, people are either embarrassed to admit what they downloaded, or have permitted access to their internet connection through wireless or other means.

    Heck, I wouldn't be shocked if less than honest people in the world are infecting computers with hidden P2P programs that forward the results on to other locations, sort of as a hacker's personal distributed VPN. But in the end, people are responsible for what happens on their internet connection.

     

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  4.  
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    PaulT (profile), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 1:34am

    Re: Re:

    Ah, the siren call of the corporate shill. "I don't agree with the conculsion, he must be lying!"

    There's plenty of stories out there of innocent people being sued, from people who can't run the software (like a Mac user who was accused of sharing files with the Windows-only Kazaa) to those who don't even own a computer. Researchers managed to get a cease and desist letter for an IP assigned to a laser printer.

    But, all those people are lying, right? If they're accused, they must be guilty because nobody innocent ever gets accused! This is why people think you're an idiot. Occasionally, you stumble across an actual valid point, but at times like this you reveal yourself as a mere contrarian fool.

     

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  5.  
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    Marcel de Jong (profile), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 1:51am

    Re: Re:

    Need I remind you that the RIAA once tried to sue a grandmother that had passed away?
    http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20050204-4587.html

    Or that they tried to sue an elderly couple that only used the Internet to email to relatives and didn't even have p2p software installed?
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/3140160.stm

    Or that they tried to sue a family that didn't even have a computer?
    http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20060424-6662.html

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Suspicious, Jan 28th, 2010 @ 2:03am

    Re: Re:

    Suspicions are nice and easy but baseless without evidence, even in this sick world where one is presumed guilty before being proven not.

    Second - the IP gathering algothim has yet to be tested and verified, one cannot just assume it to be perfect. The fact that it/they have not been opened up for scruteny makes one fear for its accuracy.

    Third - IP Spoofing is all to easy - therefore the alleged holder of an IP Address might indeed be entirely innocent of every event that supposedly occurred on that IP address.

    Fourt - not all "ordinary" internet users can possibly be tecnically savvy enough to protect every wireless connection against every threat to it even with WEP2. To assume otherwise is both immature and unwarrented.

    Fourth - are you an apologist for the recoding industry or dubious "law" firms????? Only asking ....

     

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  7.  
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    Richard (profile), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 3:18am

    Re: Re:

    @TAM Now you are defending extortion and scamming. These people have no interest in curbing piracy they are just extracting money by scaring people.

    In fact it is ACS law who are behaving like pirates (like the Somali pirates in fact).

    I have read numerous submissions to the UK government consultation on "Digital Britain" from people who have been accused and I can assure you that it is absolutely incredible that all of these people are actually guilty of anything.

    I suggest you look at http://beingthreatened.yolasite.com/

    where you will find more information.

     

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  8.  
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    Richard (profile), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 3:24am

    How do we know ?

    Q
    How do we know that their method of finding people is flawed

    A
    Because they say ""We are happy that the information we get is completely accurate,"

    Only a fool who doesn' understand the technology would make a statement like that.

     

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  9.  
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    nsaamiller (profile), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 3:29am

    Re:Re:

    I was booted by my ISP 3 times for 'illegal activities' like bit-torrent sharing a copy of some movie, too much email, and some other nonsensical thing. All of which was traced to 'my' cable modem. Sure enough, after the third time I made them swap out my modem because I was sure it was being spoofed. (Had to explain 'spoofed' to the help desk personnel.) Voila! No more random cut-off from the ISP. Any legal standing for me? Any pre-settlement letter that I can send to Midco? Doubt it. Golden rule, or Shark rule rather. Whoever has the sharks makes the rules.

     

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  10.  
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    Richard (profile), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 3:33am

    Re: Re:

    @TAM

    Read This


    http://bit.ly/thehandbook

    And tell us whether you STILL stand by your comment.

     

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  11.  
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    kfork (profile), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 3:47am

    Can anyone by some means mimick another person's IP ?
    Can any malware, despite uptodate AV, do something hidden and unknown to the user?

    If the answers are YES, then there needs to be critically urgent, massive movment against such acts of "demand-payment" or similar acts so that no body even dares to commit such act in future.

    If something is supposed to be "protected" protect it by better means, do not leave the locks open and then blame a passer-by.

     

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  12.  
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    Richard (profile), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 4:01am

    Re: Did they pay?

    No they don't upload - what they actually do is to get permission to do a "test download" from the P2P network and then look where their download came from.

    The stuff about seeding networks is misinformation.

    If you ONLY download they will never find you (but of course most P2P clients re-upload anything they download by default).

     

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  13.  
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    The Anti-Mike (profile), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 4:12am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Paul, it's all nice, but example, that Mac User may have had their wireless active and allowed pass thru access to their internet connection. SOD connects to their Mac using a PC, and ta da, infringement that appears to come from an Apple computer.

    There are plenty of ways that these things are possible.

    Are they 100%? NOPE. Nothing is 100%. I am sure some errors are made. That is why they have this thing called court. I am just saying that some of the people who are crying the loudest about being innocent either know they are in fact guilty and don't like getting caught, or have security holes in their internet access that can make them unaware of infringement happening on their connection.

    Wardriving. Old fashioned, but a very effective way to get internet connectivity for free.

     

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  14.  
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    Richard (profile), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 5:07am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "Are they 100%? NOPE. Nothing is 100%. I am sure some errors are made. That is why they have this thing called court."

    and that is why the extortionists have never taken a case to court.

    Their business model is to scare people into paying up (and many innocent but gullible people will) and to quietly drop anyone who fights back.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    :), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 5:26am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "That is why we have courts"

    Agreed and when the industry screws up they should pay the cost for the trouble they caused or else is just one sided.

    They have to pay for their mistakes or else how would they learn.

    They are stealing money from innocent people, tarnishing their image and reputation with such accusations and expect not to pay for it?

    Ludicrous, they have to pay if they are proven wrong so as to serve as deterrence in the future for further mistakes.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    :), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 5:36am

    Puff Fish LoL

    Mr Crossley said:
    "It has been said that we have no intention of going to court but we have no fear of it," he said.


    That part is hilarious he must know the cost to take thousands of people to court could mean hundreds of separate trials that could cost hundreds of millions of dollars, but sure they are not afraid just mildly preoccupied about what would happen if people just ignored them and they be faced with the task of having to go to court and actually expend money.

    Hope in the U.K. people can sue to recoup their cost and be paid for any damage to their reputations and integrity.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    :), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 5:41am

    Puff Fish LoL

    Just remembered the U.K. have one of the most restrict laws about defamation in the world those people from that law firm should be very, very careful on how they deal with the situation or it could cost them a lot. Could a solicitor in Britain loose their right to exercise their profession?

    I think if people look carefully at the law they will always find laws that are made to protect the powerful that can be used to counter them. Unless you live in China or Iran where laws are different for different people.

     

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  18.  
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    PaulT (profile), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 5:45am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Once again, you refuse to address the major point and assume that if a person is accused, they must be guilty in some way. What about the person who was sued despite not owning a computer? Are you saying that wardriving was involved there somehow? What about the researchers who managed to get a laser printer identified as the infringing device? That case proved that the RIAA are shockingly easy to fool - are you OK with being fined and having your internet connection removed because a "pirate" chose your IP address to spoof, because I'm sure as hell not.

    Bottom line: the RIAA's evidence is flimsy and easily fooled. I personally demand a higher standard of evidence before they get the right to cut off peoples' internet connections and fine them thousands of dollars.

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Michael, Jan 28th, 2010 @ 5:47am

    Re: Re:

    "Heck, I wouldn't be shocked if less than honest people in the world are infecting computers with hidden P2P programs that forward the results on to other locations"

    Your paranoia is pretty amazing.

    But, I can see your point, some of these may be because someone used their open wireless network, or used their network when they were at the house. So why is the 78 year old guy getting the letter? Shouldn't the person who actually did the file sharing get the letter? Your argument outlines why IP addresses cannot be used for this type of thing.

    Now, back to the reality of the systems they are using to identify content sharing...Haven't there been enough studies like this one?

    http://www.afterdawn.com/news/archive/14371.cfm

     

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  20.  
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    Richard (profile), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 5:54am

    Re: Puff Fish LoL

    "It has been said that we have no intention of going to court but we have no fear of it," he said.
    Of course ! That makes perfect sense.

    They have no fear of going to court because they have no intention of doing so!

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    tam critic, Jan 28th, 2010 @ 5:55am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Do not expect the anti mike to respond to actual points made and then discuss them. That is not his MO. His typical response it something like "there must be more to this story ... and therefore .... ". Diversionary tactics and side stepping the issue is his forte.

     

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  22.  
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    fogbugzd (profile), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 6:00am

    Why proof in court needs to be submitted

    Maybe there are false accusations, maybe not. The point is, we have courts for assessing penalties. Accusations are not proof. Before penalties are assessed, a court should rule whether the accuser has made their case.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 28th, 2010 @ 6:14am

    Re: Re:Re:

    Just like TAM said
    ...in the end, people are responsible for what happens on their internet connection.
    .

    Thanks TAM. That's like saying, "Watch your own backside, because no-one else is going to watch it for you."

     

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  24.  
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    Sneeje (profile), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 6:27am

    Re: Re:

    "But in the end, people are responsible for what happens on their internet connection."

    Actually no they aren't. People are not responsible if their baseball bats are used to kill or tools from their toolbox are used to break into a house without their knowledge. So you need to amend your statement to at least include "if they are aware of the specific usage" (but even that is debatable).

     

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  25.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 6:41am

    Re: Re: Re:

    ""Heck, I wouldn't be shocked if less than honest people in the world are infecting computers with hidden P2P programs that forward the results on to other locations"

    Your paranoia is pretty amazing."

    Actually, he's not being paranoid about this. It does happen, although more with the kiddie porn set than with the copyright infringement set.

    Nonetheless, if someone has been hijacked like that, I think it's wrong to hold them as guilty of the infringement (or kiddie porn) that they were unaware of. If we are hell-bent on giving them some kind of legal culpability, then there should be law outlawing operating a computer recklessly on the internet (I don't think there should, but of we have to go there...)

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 28th, 2010 @ 7:41am

    Isn't that called entrapment? (Putting a file on BT for the purpose of collecting IP Addresses) Where I live, we have laws against that.

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    Tyanna, Jan 28th, 2010 @ 7:45am

    The only thing that I don't understand that even if someone did actually download the files in question, doesn't the fact that the copyright holder actually shared it mean that it wasn't infringement any more?

    Doesn't putting it up on a medium such that it's expected that the content be downloaded by other people mean that you agree to let them download it? And if no, is that not entrapment, which is also illegal?

    Seems like their operation is more than questionable, it's down right shady. I can't wait until the make the stupid mistake of sending one of those letters out to someone with the knowledge and power to take them to court!

     

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  28.  
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    The Anti-Mike (profile), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 7:57am

    Re:

    Tyanna, they are apparently doing the reverse, going onto torrent sites, downloading their client's files from various people, and tracking the IPs that provide the pieces. This effectively shows intent to share and download (they made it publically available) and it is also much harder to falsify an IP address this way as well.

    They aren't catch people downloading, they are catching people sharing.

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Nick, Jan 28th, 2010 @ 8:01am

    Has No Computer

    Just curious, but this person that had no computer.....why did he have internet access? Does he have one of those fridges that make your shopping list for you?

     

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  30.  
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    Thomas (profile), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 8:28am

    In the book..

    "The Godfather", Don Corleone says (not sure if it's exact) "Two lawyers can steal more than 10 men with guns." Corporations have long lost anything remotely resembling ethics. The settlement people get away with it, so why should they not do it? Same for the **AA; if they manage to get people to pay, why should they give a rat's arse whether the people actually did anything?

     

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  31.  
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    btr1701 (profile), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 8:31am

    Re: Re: Law

    > But in the end, people are responsible for
    > what happens on their internet connection.

    Actually, they're not. Not legally, not morally. You can keep saying that until you're blue in the face but that won't make it true.

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 28th, 2010 @ 12:02pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I enjoy when TAM tells you to fuck off and die and then says, "Does your mommy know your up this late."

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 28th, 2010 @ 12:06pm

    Re: Re:

    It's a good thing sharing is legal in Canda and some other countries.

     

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  34.  
    identicon
    TSO, Jan 28th, 2010 @ 12:25pm

    I've always been wondering...

    So let's follow this through:

    RIAA **places** the content that **belongs to them** on the internets and allows people to download it.

    So HOW IS IT UNATHORIZED? It BELONGS TO THEM and THEY PLACED IT THE "TAKE ME" BIN??? Sounds pretty authorized to me!


    Or, they took some random file, gave it a well recognized name and let people download it. So, they downloaded not the actual song but some crap. But, that crap IS NOT THE SONG! So how can you sue them for downloading that song if they DID NOT actually download that song (but some crap instead)???


    God, oh please, give these people some brains...

     

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  35.  
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    Duke (PPUK) (profile), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 3:22pm

    Quotes from the Lords

    As has been mentioned elsewhere recently, the topic of ACS:Law (and their predecessors) has been brought up in the various debates in the House of Lords over the Digital Economy Bill. Phrases such as "legal blackmail", "bullying", "irresponsible", "relentless" and "disreputable" were brought up. It was also noted that the "allegations are based on very secretive processes carried out under no known protocol and of uncertain legality".

    For those interested, complete transcripts of the debates can be found here[parliament.uk].

    It is also worth noting that, to my knowledge, none of these cases (including the ones from 2007-08) went to a full trial - all those that were contested were dropped. Apparently ACS:Law has only one registered solicited (the AC part of the name) who was "convicted by the SRA for conduct unbefitting a solicitor in 2006". The SRA have also confirmed that they've launched an investigation into the company more recently (November).

    Just to make things even worse, it has been suggested that before taking the ISPs to court to obtain subscribers' details (which enable them to send threatening letters) they contacted the ISPs to see if they would contest the case and then avoided proceedings against any that would (hence it seems that only customers of BT and Virgin Media are receiving letters).

    I would like to second the recommendation to those affected to investigate Beingthreatened.com. They have a very informative FAQ section on the topic (although it should not be taken as a replacement for professional legal advice).

     

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  36.  
    identicon
    batch, Jan 28th, 2010 @ 3:24pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Right, I'm the person responsible for WEP and WPA's encryption being a slight formality in gaining access to a wireless network. Nice work there, douche nozzle. Why don't you just claim we shouldn't have WiFi at all because then 'teh pirates will use it to stealz!!!1'

     

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  37.  
    identicon
    Really?, Jan 28th, 2010 @ 7:25pm

    Re: Re:

    "But in the end, people are responsible for what happens on their internet connection."

    Citation required,
    otherwise it is simply a statment of opinion.

     

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  38.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 28th, 2010 @ 7:30pm

    Re: Re:

    Thank you for not addressing the question at hand.
    I just won a bet - WooHooo!

     

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

  39.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 28th, 2010 @ 7:32pm

    New Drinking Game

    Think I'll develop a drinking games based upon the comments posted by the anti mike.

     

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

  40.  
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    BentFranklin (profile), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 10:41pm

    I heard they sent someone a letter claiming the IP address 127.0.0.1 was filesharing.

     

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

  41.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 29th, 2010 @ 8:15am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    That is why they have this thing called court.

    Yes, it is, and that's why the copyright industry wants to punish people on mere accusations without going to court.

     

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  42.  
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    wvhillbilly (profile), Jan 31st, 2010 @ 11:13am

    DHCP

    To add another element to the mix: DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol). Most ISPs use DHCP to connect to user accounts. DHCP assigns an IP address automatically from a pool of addresses whenever someone logs on. Whenever that user logs off or his lease on that address expires, that address is returned to the pool to be reassigned to another user logging on. When that first user logs on again, he will almost certainly be assigned a different address from the time before, and someone else will be using his previous address. Thus the only way a particular IP address could be linked to a particular user is if the investigator logging that address has an accurate record of the exact time that address was in use and the ISP has an accurate record of who was using what address at exactly what time, or if that user has a fixed IP address. If either is off by even a minute there can be no certainty of who was using what address at what time.

    I suspect some if not all of the RIAA investigators are just plain sloppy in their work, grab the first IP address they see and either don't log the time accurately (or at all) or the ISP doesn't have an accurate log of who was using what address when, and the investigator just assumes he has the right user, grabs it and goes with it.

    As for these investigators tagging people who don't even have a computer, all I can call this is sloppiness cubed and raised to the hundredth power, or just plain malice. It's like they're just picking names and addresses out of a phone book at random and sending them notices.

    I think there should be a way for those who have been falsely accused to gain legal redress in the matter. Problem is, those accused most likely don't have the money or the resources to defend themselves against such accusations, and so settle rather than risk the RIAA and their juggernaut legal machine bankrupting them and ruining them for life.

     

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  43.  
    identicon
    nigel charles, Jun 14th, 2010 @ 1:43pm

    Many Innocent Users Sent Pre-Settlement Letters Demanding Payment For Infringement

    easy answer to this..dont pay..wait for court papers and defend yourself...put these parasites to strict proof..i dont think for one moment any of these cases will see light of day

     

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


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