Innocent computer users falsely accused of file-sharing

October 31, 2008

The UK has recently seen an upturn in the number of people being accused of illegal file-sharing, with computer games being the latest medium targeted alongside music and movies. The problem is, not all of the people accused have done anything wrong, and some of them haven’t got a clue what they’re being accused of.

August, 2008 saw an unnamed woman fined $30,000 for uploading a PC game to the Internet and allowing it to be distributed via Internet PSP sites. This seems to be just part of a larger, more encompassing crackdown on file-sharing in the UK which is going to see ISPs monitoring their own customers.

That’s already a problem in terms of rights to privacy and consumer rights, but this heavy-handed approach is an even bigger issue when innocent people are accused.

Which? discusses the case of Gill and Ken Murdoch, a couple from Inverness, aged 66 and 54 respectively. They were recently pursued by computer games firm Atari for illegally sharing Race 07 on their computer. Which would be clever of them seeing that they’ve never played a computer game in their lives, let alone this specific title.

The couple received a letter from Davenport Lyons, Atari’s lawyers, claiming they had been identified as owning an IP address responsible for sharing the game on the Web. An IP address is the unique number which identifies each computer connected to the Net but these can easily be manipulated or masked.

The Murdoch’s were given an ultimatum: pay £500 compensation and £25 costs for infringing Atari’s costs or be taken to court, where legal costs would up the bill they face considerably.

This particular couple contacted Which? and the consumer group managed to get the case against them dropped. But how many people get warnings like this and pay up rather than risk getting taken to court, even if they haven’t actually done anything wrong?

Wireless connections can easily be hacked into, and that could mean your IP address is hijacked by someone else who is partaking in illegal file-sharing. Although it’s everyone’s personal responsibility to secure their own network, media companies cannot use people’s inability or lack of knowledge to screw money from them.

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One Response to “Innocent computer users falsely accused of file-sharing”

  1. Michael:

    Like you said, IP addresses can be manipulated, changed and masked very easily. If someone has a dynamic IP adress that changes every so offten, you can sometimes find yourself with someones old IP adress.

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