Face it downloaders, you’re (we’re) screwed

Have you got your torrent client running in the background right now? Do you think you’re just some anonymous person that the copyright holder will never find? Hahaha, I’ve got a surprise for you, thanks to the Federal Court of Canada. Find out what it is after the jump.

You may have heard about the Hurt Locker lawsuit in the United States. In the lawsuit, the producers of that movie (Voltage Pictures) are suing almost 25,000 people (yes, you read that right, twenty-five thousand) who downloaded it via BitTorrent. The courts ordered that the downloaders be identified via their IP addresses, and the ISPs (big ones like Comcast and Verizon) are in the process of complying. I guess it takes a little while to track down 25,000 names.

“But that’s in the U.S.,” you say. “I’m safe up here in Canada.” Not anymore! Voltage Pictures has also filed a lawsuit in Quebec (in Federal Court, where copyright lawsuits go in Canada). But as in the U.S., Voltage only has the IP addresses of the people they want to sue. So in a court order from August 29th, the Federal Court has ordered three ISPs – Bell, Vidéotron, and Cogeco – to attach names and addresses to those IP addresses. Uh oh. The scuttlebutt on my LinkedIn Tech Lawyers group is that it’s only 30 names, but still, it could be you!

“But I never downloaded the Hurt Locker, so I’m cool” you’re saying to yourself. Sure, for now. Once the courts do something once, you can bet they’ll be doing it again. Peer-to-peer downloading has become the scourge of copyright owners, and they’ll be looking to launch more and more lawsuits like this. If they know the Court will order the ISPs to give up names and addresses, they will be way more willing to launch massive lawsuits like this, against as many people as they can find. We actually don’t know if the ISPs have complied with the order yet, but rest assured I’ll be following up on this story for my own interests for the benefit of the readers of AM.com.

The problem here (well one of them) is that IP addresses do not necessarily equal the actual downloader. This ars technica piece does a nice job explaining that problem and giving a bunch of examples from the American case. Some people share wi-fi, some people steal it. Check your available wireless networks right now, there’s a good chance you’ll see “linksys (unsecured)”. Oh look, I have one. Uh, not that I would use it or anything, I’m a respectable lawyer. But let’s say I had connected, and downloaded the Hurt Locker, the ISP would certainly be giving the wrong name and address to the plaintiff.

This order is a big deal. Most downloading these days is done via torrent, and the copyright issues are huge. It’s such an important topic I wrote my Master’s Thesis on it (for the love of God don’t read all 140 pages of it, the short version is you’re screwed). If the courts start ordering ISPs to turn over names and addresses as a matter of course, this will not stop, and you (I) could be next.

Posted in: Copyright, The Courts
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11 Responses to Face it downloaders, you’re (we’re) screwed

  1. Hadulf says:

    Yeah, if this goes down, you will see some kind of technology come out that will blur out the IP address…

    Instead of sending in your real IP, it will parse it and send in a scrambled, random IP. I’m sure a device like that is in the works, if it doesn’t exist already.

    Very good point about the wi-fi…Who knows if anyone is hacking my connection, even though it is secured, and downloading movies or other illicit material. Interesting stuff.

  2. steve says:

    Give me another reason to hate Harper, and he gives me a couple of hundred. If they go after streaming I am going to go strictly to library sources. Reading is such a drag.

  3. Moey says:

    Eeek! Not that I have anything to worry about. *gulp*

  4. steve says:

    Speaking of having no privacy, I was alerted by LinkedIn that someone wanted to add me to my network, and then gave me a list of people I should think about adding to my network, one Mr Allen was on the top of the list. I have been posting on a incredibly clever deeply layered cutout. Nevertheless Linked in wants to connect me to Allen. I would have made a horrible spy but do like the Chinese.

  5. RiRi says:

    YIKES. I need to start using iTunes more.

    (I’m late but so glad to have discovered your new blog!)

  6. steve says:

    Great work Allen, Harper heard about your blog and left internet snooping out of the omnibus crime bill.

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