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Innocent UK Gamers Collateral Damage in P2P War
October 30, 2008
Thomas Mennecke
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The UK-based consumer advocacy group Which? Computing has successfully intervened in the case of a couple who was accused by Atari for uploading the game "Race 07". The couple were sent a monetary demand letter by Davenport Lyons, a UK-based law firm charged with a similar responsibility by the creators of Dream Pinball 3-D. According to Which? Computing, the letter demanded “£500 compensation and £25 costs for infringing the copyright of Atari."

Like most people who receive a monetary demand, the couple Ken and Gill Murdoch, aged 54 and 66, were in a state of shock and awe. They had been identified by their IP address, which, before the age of knowledge, was thought to be an absolute way to identify an individual. That isn't so much the case anymore.

The couple vigorously insisted that they never played a computer game in their life, and their computer was never used as a file-sharing platform. The couple told the BBC, "We do not have, and have never had, any computer game or sharing software. We did not even know what 'peer to peer' was until we received the letter."

Somehow, the couple's IP address was identified. If an Internet account owner is accused of file-sharing but has never used a P2P application, typically the blame can be pointed at an insecure wireless access point. This happens more often than people realize - just drive down a developed street with a WIFI device and you'll see many weakly or downright unsecured connections.

Now according to the BBC, the couple didn't even have a WIFI access point. So how did Atari and Davenport Lyons get the IP address?

That's an excellent question that no one really has an answer to. Luckily for the Murdoch's, the case was dropped, but the mystery of the wandering IP address remains. It could have been a simple clerical error, or possibly, the Murdoch's were collateral damage in the online copyright wars.

In order to pursue a suspected file-sharer, the investigator needs the IP address with the correct time/date stamp. This evidence has been used to successfully settle copyright infringement cases, however, in the United States there has yet to be a single trial case where this evidence has led to a successful outcome for the entertainment industry. But it’s enough to scare people into paying up a lower cost (about $3,000) instead of facing a multi-hundred thousand dollar judgment.

To dilute the integrity of the IP address as evidence, it’s no secret that The Pirate Bay’s tracker returns random IP addresses in addition to actual peers. So when an investigator downloads a file from The Pirate Bay’s network and captures a few IP addresses, it’s very possible the captured IP could be a false or random number. It could’ve even been the Murdoch’s. No one will ever know. As TorrentFreak points out, professional firms such as BayTSP has an internal requirement to actually connect to a peer before capturing evidence, but BayTSP isn’t the only firm collecting evidence, and false positives are not outside the realm of possibility.

This story is filed in these Slyck News categories
Legal/Courtroom :: Individual Lawsuits

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