File Sharing not Safe for Pirates or Casual Users

Dennis Faas's picture

A recent "Which? Computing" (magazine) investigation reportedly found that hundreds of innocent people are being accused of software piracy crime, despite the fact that many have never used file sharing services. (Source:

The case against one Scottish couple falsely accused by Atari Corporation was dropped, but Which magazine estimates that there are hundreds of others in similar situations. Before the case was dropped, a letter was sent giving them a chance to pay 500 GBP compensation or face a court case. Atari has not commented on why their case was dropped.

It's estimated that six million people illegally share files each year, consequently causing huge headaches for copyright owners and firms are getting tough on pirates as they monitor peer-to-peer (P2P) sharing networks such as Gnutella, Bit Torrent, and eDonkey that allow games, music and video to be shared.

Davenport Lyons, the lawyers in the Atari case, relies on Logistep, which allegedly finds those people accused of illegally sharing files via their IP address. With the IP address, rights owners can apply for a court order obliging the Internet Service Provider to hand over account holder details.

Michael Coyle, an intellectual property solicitor says more and more people are being wrongly identified as file sharers. He is currently pursuing 70 cases of people claiming to be wrongly accused of piracy and has spoken to "hundreds" of others. Some, like the previously mentioned Scottish couple, don't know what a game is, let alone the software that allows them to be shared.

The most common problems seem to arise when pirates steal someone else's network connection by "piggybacking" on unsecured wireless networks. Prosecutors argue that users are legally required to secure their connections, but Mr. Coyle dismisses such talk, arguing that there is no section of the Copyright Act that makes you secure your network, despite the fact that it is common sense to do so.

The aforementioned Scottish couple does not have a wireless network, so it's currently unknown how their IP address ended up being linked to file sharing.

Questions arise when using an IP address on its own. According to Mr. Coyle, the IP address alone doesn't tell you anything and piracy is only established beyond a doubt if the hard-drive is examined.

Some firms that facilitate file sharing undermine efforts to track down file sharers, but despite the problems, rights owners are successfully suing pirates and it's widely expected that the music industry will follow the lead of the games firms and begin prosecuting suspected file sharers next year. (Source: and Forensic Solutions LLC)

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