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The other day, a friend of mine got an e-mail from his Internet Service Provider (ISP) about a copyright infringement. He didn’t know what this was all about so he had me take a look at it.

What I’d like to do for you now is to break down the letter and address important things about it.

Then I’d like to explain what precautions you can take so that you never get a copyright infringement notice from your ISP.

We are writing to inform you that we have received a complaint that alleges that your Internet Service account has been involved in copyright infringement. This complaint was traced back to your account based on the IP address used at the time of this activity.

Yes, this can really be done in cases of copyright infringement. Your ISP should be automatically making logs to track who they’ve assigned IP addresses to, as well as when. There really isn’t any thing that you can do about this. If you want, you could reboot your modem to see if you get a new IP address assigned to you. All that will do is make it harder for a copyright holder to establish a pattern of downloading. But they still can!

Please note that we have not provided any of your personal account information to the complainant. It is our policy to disclose such information to a complainant only if ordered to do so by a court of law, which has not happened to date.

That’s pretty decent of them to have that as a corporate policy. However, check the policy for YOUR ISP on this sort of thing. They may want nothing to do with dealing with copyright holders, and will hand over your information upon request if copyright infringement is claimed. If that is the case, you may consider changing ISPs.

There’s more in the letter, but it pretty much echoes what you see above. So, here’s where we get into making sure it doesn’t happen again.

  1. Stop downloading copyrighted materials. If you’re not sure if it is something that carries a copyright, you’re probably best off to not download it.
  2. If it wasn’t you doing the downloading, talk nicely to everyone you know who has access to your account. Hopefully, they will be honest with you. In this case, the friend’s teenager was downloading TV shows because they canceled the cable TV service. Fortunately the kid was honest, so they looked at legal alternatives for watching TV online.
  3. If no one who has access confesses to the deed, refer back to the letter. The one I read listed the date and time that the copyrighted material was accessed, as well as name and type of file. So if you see it’s the new Eminem album, chances are it wasn’t Great Aunt Ethel who did the downloading. That information will help you to identify who did the downloading. Talk to them about the perils of copyright infringement when you download copyrighted materials.
  4. If no one that you know was responsible for the download, then you need to start looking at your wireless router to see if someone outside of the house is accessing your network. Most wireless routers will show you who is connected, and some will keep logs of connections.If more people are connected than you have wireless devices in your home, something is wrong.


    That’s all there is in our house, although I don’t know what the unknown is. Possibly our DivX Connected device. The System Log will look something like this.

    copyright infringement notice from isp

    Try to match up that information with the information in the copyright infringement letter. If it is someone outside of your house, you need to look at strengthening the security on your wireless router How To Secure Your Wireless Network Connection How To Secure Your Wireless Network Connection Read More . If it seems to be just one person, your router will likely have a way for you to block them specifically. You can get the MAC address from the system log or connected devices summary. This is also a great way to ground kids from the Internet.

    copyright infringement notice isp

  5. Let’s say that you have copyrighted content that you legally purchased on your computer, but it’s in the same folder as the files for your P2P application. Make sure you move those files out of there, as you may be accidentally sharing them with others. That’s a copyright violation as well.
  6. Last but not least, do a very thorough virus scan of your computer. It is possible that you may have a trojan that is opening up your hard drive to the Internet. That may result in unauthorized sharing of files also.Something else you may want to consider is a program called PeerBlock. Karl just wrote an article about it. It’s important to note that with PeerBlock, you can create block AND allow lists. So that’s a blacklist/whitelist scenario. You could just create a whitelist of people that you legitimately share files with, so those are the only people that can access you via P2P. That would help eliminate any unauthorized snooping around in your files as well.

Has this article helped you to understand why you got the infringement letter? Has it helped you to understand what you can do to prevent this situation from happening again? I sure hope so. Nobody needs to pay tens of thousands in fines for things they could have bought for a few dollars.

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  1. Laura Bryant
    August 14, 2015 at 5:27 pm

    I'm new to this and kinda freaking out, lol. Our notice is about a specific song (downloaded from frostwire) I'm pretty sure it was done by my 10 year old nephew and the song and app have been deleted. I ignored the first email and have now received a second. What should I do?

  2. anonymous
    April 30, 2015 at 11:29 am

    dont do any of that unless your doing the tunneling method tho, those alone dont save you, they just make the tunnel insufficient

  3. anonymous
    April 30, 2015 at 11:29 am

    oh yes, and disable ipv6 too!

  4. anonymous
    April 30, 2015 at 11:28 am

    first off, peer block does nothing AND PEER BLOCK DOESNT WORK with modern methods of filesharing, if your using old kazaa/napster its great, but not in this day and age.

    for the smart among you, I offer the path- disable WebRTC, geolocation, and either get a virtual personal server to do the dirty work, or a tunnel to a server and use end to end encryption. Ive avoided the trade names for these things to keep the stupid in their place getting caught so I CAN KEEP DOING IT while your the low hanging fruit.

    for the dumb, you are the low hanging fruit. I've offered the path, it is up to you to be able to utilize it. I considered writing a quick guide to privacy, but realized i need low hanging fruit like you to make myself more difficult to unmask. once they think everyone is doing it the smart way, and nobody is getting busted, they will begin looking at folks like me with new legislation that makes my methods either insufficient, or illegal.

    right now, it works, and its legal/affordable.

  5. Brian
    February 20, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    "Stop downloading copyrighted materials. If you’re not sure if it is something that carries a copyright, you’re probably best off to not download it."

    You're confusing downloading copyrighted materials with copyright infringement. Downloading copyrighted materials isn't necessarily illegal. The copyright holder(s) may have chosen to make the material freely available (e.g., under a license like GPL) or the downloader may have purchased the copyrighted material (e.g., from iTunes).

    Technically, practically anytime you view a web page your browser is automatically downloading copyrighted materials...

  6. Derek
    November 25, 2009 at 7:45 pm


    I feel compelled to point out that the step you outline in your forth point only gives one a false sense of security. MAC address filtering is a very common myth when it comes to wireless security. Those with the knowledge can easily circumvent the MAC filter by spoofing the MAC addresses of the clients connecting to your wireless router. All it takes is less than 5 minutes and a program like kismet to pull them out of the air.

    The best way to secure one's wireless router is to take the time to configure it and not leave it set at defaults. WPA2 should be configured if it's available. If it's not, WPA will suffice. If all that's supported is WEP, it's time to get a new wireless router.

    • Guy McDowell
      November 26, 2009 at 12:48 am

      Not false, just incomplete. Those with the knowledge to spoof a MAC address may very well have the knowledge, or at least inclination, to crack your WPA2 security. That information, and the applications to do it, is available on the Web.

      I also pointed the user to another article on strengthening their WiFi router's security.

      I've said it before and I'll say it again - there is no such thing as secured, only an acceptable level of security.

  7. Joe
    November 25, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    So my little brother uses my computer some times and apparently he got into it with some people on youtube. They got his email, tracked his myspace, and MY I.P. address too (most likely). They're saying they will get more information about him but in reality it's my computer, I use it for work, he only uses it to play around. Should I be worried about this? Is is possible for them to hack my computer if they have my I.P.? would PeerBlock help at all? If someone can answer my questions please, I will really appreciate it.

    • Guy McDowell
      November 25, 2009 at 7:08 pm

      If I were you, I would make sure that I have a decent firewall. Not Windows Firewall, but something else. Check elsewhere on for good suggestions.

      You can also change your IP address. Go to That will tell you what your IP address currently is. Now, go shut off your modem for a few minutes and then turn it on. Go back to and check what it is now. It should be different.

      Overall, I wouldn't be that worried. Getting hacked by someone you flipped off on the Internet is unlikely. It just isn't worth the effort for them to do that.

      • Joe
        November 26, 2009 at 7:32 pm

        wow, thanks Guy, that was quick and will follow your advice. Cheers!

  8. noob
    November 25, 2009 at 6:24 am

    how did the isp knew the email in first place?

    • Guy McDowell
      November 26, 2009 at 12:00 am

      When you sign up for Internet service, they usually assign you an e-mail address or ask you to give them one to contact you with.

      If not, they do need your phone number and home address, so they could just call you or send you a letter, too.

  9. anonymous
    November 24, 2009 at 8:46 pm

    this article is over 9000

    • Guy McDowell
      November 25, 2009 at 12:21 am

      What does that mean?

      • Bob3000
        November 25, 2009 at 10:57 am

        It's a stupid internet meme. Feel free to delete it.

  10. GingerWench
    November 24, 2009 at 8:30 pm

    Great point about "sharing" folders and viruses ... something I'm not sure most people would even think about in regards to these infringement issues. Food for thought, thanks for sharing! =)

  11. John Crissman
    November 24, 2009 at 7:59 pm

    I got the same letter from Verizon about 18 months ago. I downloaded a program called Peer Block (formerly Peer Guardian) and now they never even know I'm downloading the stuff. It acts as a personal firewall that blocks all known RIAA/MPAA/Media Sentry/etc IP addresses from attempting to download anything from you when your torrenting. The list of known IP addresses is updated almost daily.

  12. gouthami.b
    November 24, 2009 at 6:12 am

    Informative post.Very helpful..

  13. Sean
    November 23, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    Excellent material here. Downloading, and most definitely sharing, copyrighted material is a risk most people don't associate with potential financial and legal consequences. But it seems lately that the groups that represent copyright holders are getting more and more aggressive in protecting their clients. I guess, as the saying goes, don't do the crime if you can't do the time. More importantly, understand what constitutes a crime and try not to cross that line...

    • Guy McDowell
      November 23, 2009 at 9:57 pm

      In Canada, there seems to be some confusion about the legality of downloading. One judge did rule that it was okay to download copyrighted materials because we pay an extra fee on all recordable media, which goes to the movie and music folks to help defray the lost revenue by people taping or saving the music and movies.
      In Canada, a judge can make law by making a ruling like this. However, I think it has since been overturned.
      In any case, if you think it might be illegal, unethical or immoral - just don't do it. Good life rule, really.