Would You Believe Copyright Infringement Notices Are Based On Faulty Information?

from the and-that's-against-the-law... dept

This has been pointed out before, but never by an academic study: it turns out that many of the infringement notices that get sent by the big entertainment companies are based on incorrect information, often accusing perfectly legitimate content of being infringing. The study, by some professors at the University of Washington, proved that the notices are sent, rather haphazardly based on whether or not an IP address participates on a file sharing network -- and not whether or not it actually uploads or downloads any content. Specifically, these researchers set about to monitor file sharing networks themselves, and introduced a software agent that watched over what was happening -- but which did not actively upload or download anything itself. But what happened? The researchers received 400 notices claiming that their IP address had participated in unauthorized file sharing. Basically, as suspected, the industry watchdogs merely list out (easily faked) IP addresses, and use that as their entire body of evidence to file a claim.

So, while this isn't that surprising, it's even more proof of just how flimsy the RIAA/MPAA evidence is when they file these suits. Even worse, when this information is the basis of DMCA takedown notices, it's potentially a violation of the law -- as part of filing a DMCA takedown is swearing that you have proof that infringement occurred. The scary thing is that all of this has been pointed out to the industry before -- and yet the folks involved still seem to think that they are above the law. For all their moralizing about "pirates" not obeying the law, you would think that they would be careful about making sure they weren't breaking the law themselves. Apparently not.

Update: Realizing I left out the best part. In showing how the IP addresses can be easily faked, the researchers used the IP address of three laser printers who were then accused of "making available" unauthorized material. Somehow, I get the feeling this particular research paper is going to find its way into a variety of legal battles in the near future.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 5th, 2008 @ 3:26pm

    *sigh* They'll never learn.

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

  2. identicon
    Jr. Anonymous Coward, Jun 5th, 2008 @ 3:44pm

    I knew it ! B**tards :-(

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

  3. identicon
    Alex, Jun 5th, 2008 @ 3:45pm

    Above the law?

    They may be "above the law" now, but that's only until their pet Congresscritters change the law to bring it in line with how they're acting.

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

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 5th, 2008 @ 4:16pm

    When are the AGs and DAs going to start earning their salarys?

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

  5. identicon
    Kiba, Jun 5th, 2008 @ 5:07pm

    Stop Bullying People, K?

    Why don't the MPAA/RIAA have moral themselves and you know...not deprive people of their rightful property, not trying to stomp on the free market, and stop pretending IP agreement as necessary part of free trade agreement(never mind that WTO and USA don't actually support free trade).

    You know..stop coercing and bullying people in general.

    We need a revolution! I call for anachro-capitalism!

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

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 5th, 2008 @ 5:56pm

    Did the agent program list itself as having files? Because that seems to be what they go by for sending these notices.

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

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 5th, 2008 @ 6:03pm

    Scratch that, apparently it was a study on BT, and they found that merely being connected to the tracker without having the file or downloading it still got notices sent.

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

  8. identicon
    Noah Callaway, Jun 5th, 2008 @ 6:37pm


    As a computer science student at the UW, this report is welcome. It's always nice to see your professors doing things like this. I also thought the picture they created was pretty funny.

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

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 5th, 2008 @ 8:23pm

    I'm shocked and dismayed

    What will it take to stop these no good freeloading IP stealing laser printers ?
    When will someone put a stop to this ?
    Laser printers, please think of the artists for once.

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

  10. identicon
    Krum, Jun 5th, 2008 @ 8:58pm

    Re: UW

    Thank you for that link! :) That picture is awesome! So we can now add HP Printers to the list of RIAA/MPAA defendants along with dead people, children and the homeless.

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

  11. icon
    Killer_Tofu (profile), Jun 6th, 2008 @ 5:34am


    I am sure that removing those printers from the copyrighted content distribution systems will be another significant blow to pirates, right? Hahahaha

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

  12. icon
    PaulT (profile), Jun 6th, 2008 @ 6:51am

    Hardly surprising, unfortunately. One of the reasons I've never trusted the evidence behind these lawsuits and DMCA warnings is that they barely seem a step up from when automated "cease and desist" warnings were sent in the late 90s.

    There was the infamous case where a Professor Usher was threatened because something mistook a recording of one of his lectures for a new pop single by the artist of the same name. In the same period, a ZX Spectrum website was threatened because they had a copy of the game "Soldier Of Fortune" - the 1987 Spectrum game (I believe legally with the blessing of its author), of course, not the new game of that title.

    The only real change here is that the DMCA is being used as the basis for the threat. A decade later, and they're still not double checking who they're making threats against, let alone what's actually being "stolen". Yet, of course, anyone they sue is still a "pirate" and any life-destroying fine *must* be paid "for the good of the artist".

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

  13. identicon
    MLS, Jun 6th, 2008 @ 8:27am

    File Sharing

    I wish that someone would undertake an objective analysis of what type of content is actually being shared over the internet. It would be useful to know the percentage of copyright protected works for which the copyright holders have not authorized file sharing.

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

  14. identicon
    Noah Callaway, Jun 6th, 2008 @ 10:14am

    Re: Re: UW

    If you read their paper they explain exactly what they did and how they did it. Doing something similar yourself wouldn't be too hard...

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

  15. identicon
    John Wilson, Jun 6th, 2008 @ 11:01am

    Re: File Sharing

    Just once, MLS, perhaps you might agree that it's a highly immoral act (as you claim to be a moral person) to send out false accusations of copyright infringement when the accuser has no proof whatsoever other than being on the Net and part of a torrent swarm.

    After all, it is highly unlikely that a laser printer is downloading and uploading two hour movies, is it not?

    And it's not likely that even such a study as you suggest would be believed as, should it find something your world view can't handle, you would reject it as flawed somehow.

    It's always dangerous when a lawyer claims the moral high ground.



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

  16. identicon
    MLS, Jun 6th, 2008 @ 12:24pm

    Re: Re: File Sharing

    The industry associations are of the mindset that the majority of files shared over P2P are protected by copyright. My interest is merely in determining if such files are in fact in the majority, somewhere in the middle, or in the minority.

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

  17. identicon
    Chronno S. Trigger, Jun 6th, 2008 @ 1:42pm

    Re: Re: Re: File Sharing

    I had a P2P program that let you see what everyone else was downloading. From what I saw the majority was not movies or music but (you guessed it) porn. I don't know if those files were infringing but there it is. That program is dead now and I have no current info.

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

  18. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 7th, 2008 @ 10:40am

    I suppose that in the eyes of the "content owners" the end justifies the means and the collateral damage is acceptable so long as it does not directly affect them. However, they seem to under rate credibility as a desirable characteristic. This will, over time, become a big problem when looking for a jury of their peers.

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

  19. identicon
    Ken, Apr 18th, 2009 @ 11:55am

    False notice

    I removed my bit-torrent and reformatted my comp, and now I'm getting a ~second~ notice of copyright infringement, and about 2 months after the fact, and for the same file???? That's Verizon talking to the same sources mentioned in this article. Its bogus, and that's why I'm no longer a customer. Can you read the anger in this? I am pissed.

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

  20. identicon
    plastic molding service, May 4th, 2009 @ 10:38pm

    travel aroudn NZ

    The Lost Girls decided to soak up the benefits by ditching our bikini tops and smearing the clay-like mud across our chests and faces for maximum exposure. Not quite your typical luxurious spa experience, we felt like we were applying war paint. Still, we were reluctant to climb out and rinse off scaffolding with a cold shower after we’d reached the twenty-minute time limit. And I don’t think it was simply power of suggestion that had us feeling so rejuvenated after only a short dip.

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

  21. identicon
    lick dees nuts, Dec 11th, 2011 @ 10:15am

    let verizon send that notice to me or anyone else. I'll deny it and counter sue for breaking my privacy act they have no prove.

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

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