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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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. 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.
- 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.
- 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.