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Convicted by the Movie Cops 454

Reckless Visionary writes "Salon has a great article about what it's like to get on the MPAA's bad side. It's a first hand account of what happens when you are accused of violating the DMCA and commentary on the "guilty until proven innocent" nature of today's copyright laws." Pirate movies. Lose access. You are guilty. And this guy was on vacation when it happened, so there's no need for accountability. Hope you don't depend on your net access.
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Convicted by the Movie Cops

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  • Honestly (Score:4, Interesting)

    by WinDoze ( 52234 ) on Thursday August 23, 2001 @12:43PM (#2208706)
    If my ISP decided to shut me off because someone else accused me of something, and they didn't even bother asking my side of the story, I think I'd be more than happy to terminate my relationship with that ISP.
    • If my ISP decided to shut me off because someone else accused me of something, and they didn't even bother asking my side of the story, I think I'd be more than happy to terminate my relationship with that ISP.
      Oh really? The article states that the DMCA requires your ISP to disconnect you unless they want to be be held liable too. No ISP would risk a lawsuit for someone who probably did violate copyright.

      Don't blame the ISP, it's the DMCA that's broken.

      • Re:Honestly (Score:2, Insightful)

        by BlueTurnip ( 314915 )
        Don't blame the ISP, it's the DMCA that's broken.

        What's really broken is the fact that most broadband providers have a virtual monopoly. Back in the days of 56K modems, ISPs were a dime a dozen, and if you were dropped by one, it was no big deal to sign up with another. This situation has changed drastically now that people are dependent on broadband access. DSL is not available everywhere which means many people are dependent on cable modems for broadband, and in most cities there is only one choice of provider.

        I'm not saying cable companies should be forced to allow competitors to use their lines, but we should be careful that when fiber optics are installed, that whichever company is given the government granted monopoly to dig trenches on public land to lay cables, that this company must, in return, allow other ISPs to hook up to the other end, giving consumers choice. Then if you are dropped by one, it's no big deal to sign up with another.

        • Just out of curiosity. How hard is it (and what kind of monetary/time expenditure is necessary) to start a broadband isp. I know with dialup the startup costs in terms of time and money were not so high that they put it out of reach of the average geek.

      • Oh really? The article states that the DMCA requires your ISP to disconnect you unless they want to be be held liable too. No ISP would risk a lawsuit for someone who probably did violate copyright.

        But what if the MPAA's alegation, like many it makes, is false? If the ISP terminates a user's account based on a false accusation the user might just have legal claims against them.

        My ISP, who is very top-notch, probably wouldn't just go pull the plug on a user unless they were sure the grounds to were valid.
        I hope.
    • Re:Honestly (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ColdCuts ( 193807 )
      Makes sense. You can always go with that *other* cable internet access provider,


    • Hmph. This is lawsuit time in my world. Whatever service the MPAA used has just committed libel (or is it slander?). Shrink-wrap licenses that say "We can cancel service at any time" are quite questionable. Whats to stop someone from pulling a totally legal con job that way? It never said though, whether they recieved a refund at all for the time lost. If not, then thats a definite issue.
    • Bwhen you ISP is your only possible broadband access, and they do this, you don't realistically even have that choice!

      In many areas today, there is only one broadband provider.
  • Ranger Inc (Score:2, Interesting)

    by clinko ( 232501 )
    "We never sleep. Our IOS software is constantly searching the Internet 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Our intelligent scanning probes are customized to each client's needs and patrol the Internet searching for suspicious sites."

    Isn't scanning illegal now too?
    • Re:Ranger Inc (Score:3, Interesting)

      by saider ( 177166 )
      You could probably filter out Ranger Inc's IP addresses out at your firewall.

      They fingered this guy from a Usenet post. Either someone forged the IP address, this guy had his computer compromised, or he actually did it and is crying 'foul' because he was caught. It's hard to say what is up with this article. But it does bring up perfectly valid points about the enforcement of a penalty without due process.
      • by wiredog ( 43288 )
        He's probably on a DHCP link, the IP address changes every time you log on with those. Well, not all of them, but that's the default. It allows the ISP to have more subscribers on a node than it has addresses. I suspect that the log got bollixed up and linked the port he was on to someone else's IP addr.
    • Well, to paraphrase Jack Valenti: I sleep a little less well knowing that the MPAA is doing shit like this.
  • by bconway ( 63464 ) on Thursday August 23, 2001 @12:47PM (#2208725) Homepage
    How many times have we seen this before? They had their connection to their ISP discontinued! This is hardly a conviction, nor would I in any way consider an ISP to be a government body. Okay, so it was an inconvenience, and the matter was settled, but the ISP was just doing what they felt was right in trying to resolve a problem, and inadvertantly targeted the wrong user. It's not like they were thrown in jail for visiting the US by Adobe. Come on.
    • That's all beside the point. This guy didn't do anything (so it would seem from the article) and yet, as an innocent net user, his time and effort were wasted on behalf of the MPAA.
    • by JoeGrind ( 324053 ) on Thursday August 23, 2001 @12:56PM (#2208794)
      Give you a break? The point that you don't seem to think is a big deal has nothing to do with the punishment. The point is that if you are paying money for a service you expect that service. They expect the money and you expect the bandwidth. If an organization which apparently can't even accurately determine the source IP of the traffic they are monitoring just needs to point a finger to get your access shutdown then that seems to be a violation of the contract you have with the ISP.

      Not having the ability to surf for pr0n is one thing. However, lots of people use their connections for business uses. It supports their livelihood. When you consider that, it sounds a little more important.

      The last point is that the idea of being innocent until being proven guilty by a jury of your peers is one of the tenents of the US, where this action occured. A lot of people jumped on boats and sailed across the see to avoid this sort of behavior. Without that, this sounds could be the Salem Witch Hunt, the Red Scare, or the Inquisition.

      Right now it's just being able to check your email. But as we depend on bandwidth more and more in the future it becomes more important. Consider that.
      • The point is that if you are paying money for a service you expect that service. They expect the money and you expect the bandwidth. If an organization which apparently can't even accurately determine the source IP of the traffic they are monitoring just needs to point a finger to get your access shutdown then that seems to be a violation of the contract you have with the ISP.

        Only on Slashdot would people take broadband access as an inalienable right. This has nothing to do with innocence, guilt or the jury system, and everything to do with the terms of service (ie, contract) that you enter into with the ISP.

        Let's take a look at that contract, shall we?

        If the author's service was with Time Warner, then she was probably a Roadrunner user. I'm on RR too, and here's an exerpt from the agreement I've got with the NEO (Northeast Ohio) branch - I would imagine hers is similar if not identical:

        Time Warner Cable NEO Division and ServiceCo each shall have the right at any time to change or discontinue any aspect or feature of the Road Runner Service, including but not limited to content, hours of availability, Equipment and System Requirements. Either Time Warner Cable NEO Division or Subscriber may terminate the Road Runner Service to Subscriber at any time.

        You can find the whole load here []

        Oops. Looks like the ISP can pull the plug any time they want to, for any reason they want to, and there's exactly jack squat I can do about it.

        Eeek! My precious high-speed pr0n, er, business net access is at peril! Whatever shall I do?

        Make sure that I'm not dependent on RR for my business needs, that's what. A 56 modem and a serial cable is pretty much all I need to do that. And luckily I can remember how I used to do things before the cable modem was around.

        Time Wanker and the MPAA did this pair a favor - now that they understand that their broadband access can evaporate they'll (hopefully) get some backups in place. Perhaps there's a lesson for all of us...?
    • Yes they targeted the wrong user but:

      The MPAA and the ISP did not admit any wrong doing or mistake on their part. The made the guy sign a document stating he would not traffic copywrited materials. As far as they are concerned he did it.

      Suppose your cable tv was disconnected because the cable company was told that you were making illegal copies of movies and selling them? What would you do? You are accused of being a pirate and the only way you can get your cable service back is to promise not to do it again. But, you never did it in the first place.

      Is that just an invoncenience? How would you feel?

    • Today this may be an inconvenience, but give it a couple of years. Would you consider it an inconvenience if your phone was turned off for suspected wrongdoings? How about your electricity or water? Hmmm... We think you're growing something you shouldn't be in there... better shut off the water until we're sure that you're not...

      While Internet access will never be as "critical" a service as heat or water, some of us would suffer very real economic damages if our net access was interrupted, and this is only going to get more and more common.

    • For many, their internet connection is the primary way they communicate with others.

      What if your phone service was cut off because you sang a copyrighted song over the line?:-) Or suppose your postal service was suspended because someone accused you of sending or receiving copyrighted material?

    • Wait until the owner of your apartment (if you live in a rented one) won't let you in because someone wrote him a letter accusing you of doing "illegal stuff" in there.

      I guess that's also just an incovinience?

      Come on, this is a serious issue. Maybe not as serious as making you homeless, but still very serious. Effectively the MPAA has the power to have anyone disconnected from the net whenever they feel like doing so. If they're critizied, they can just disconnect their critics. They can force small companies out of business (disconnect Napster's servers before Napster becomes well-known? No problem.) If a case ever goes to court, the worst that can happen to the MPAA is that they have to pay a small refund for some weeks of service interruption. The worst that can happen to you is that you go into jail because the MPAA had the better lawyers. Which is why most people won't sue, but rather shut up.

      • Tactic (Score:3, Interesting)

        by gilroy ( 155262 )
        Blockquoth the poster:

        Effectively the MPAA has the power to have anyone disconnected from the net whenever they feel like doing so.

        Who provides service for the MPAA? Somewhere along the line, they have to connect to the Net, just like us. What if a bunch of people just started accusing them of copyright infringement and getting their service cut?

        Or, perhaps more effectively: What about senators and representatives? They often quote an awful lot of stuff; surely one might feel some of it is in violation. And of course, the beauty is, there doesn't have to be a violation, just an accusation of one.

        • Or, perhaps more effectively: What about senators and representatives? They often quote an awful lot of stuff; surely one might feel some of it is in violation. And of course, the beauty is, there doesn't have to be a violation, just an accusation of one.

          That's an interesting idea, but the question here is, will the ISP listen to you? They might fear being sued by the MPAA, but do they also fear you? Due to the DMCA, they are maybe liable for continued copyright infringements when they don't listen to you, but if there is no infringement going on, that's not a problem. I also suppose the ISPs do take a look at who is accused, and don't disconnect "certain persons."

          It's an interesting idea, though.

  • I think this pretty well sums it up [].

  • Did anybody expect an ISP owned primarily by Time-Warner to act in a responsible manner? After all, the parent company owns several movie studios.

    Synergy, hah. More like incest...
  • by Noryungi ( 70322 ) on Thursday August 23, 2001 @12:50PM (#2208750) Homepage Journal
    Let me summarize:
    • ISP thinks you are spreading pirated movies through Usenet
    • ISP cuts off the line and tells you rudely you are violating whatever idiotic law they'd like to protect
    • You have no recourse, no information on said pirated movie post and you can't prove anything

    I believe that, in such as case, it should be possible to countersue both the ISP, the MPAA and the company doing research for both.

    Something like "Unfair termination of service" or "Violation of service agreement" as well as "Slanderous attacks" seem totally possible in this case. Anybody with more legal experience cares to comment?

    Chilling, nonetheless... =(
    • by isorox ( 205688 ) on Thursday August 23, 2001 @01:02PM (#2208844) Homepage Journal
      Anybody with more legal experience cares to comment?

      On slashdot?

    • Yes, as one of the net's chief 15 year old legal experts I'd just like to say that under the 'Really Big Bad Companies' legislation passed by Justice Jon Katz you have recourse to the provisions provided for any geek to sue any company that makes lots of money that you don't like.
    • Unfair termination of service" or "Violation of service agreement" as well as "Slanderous attacks"

      I have no legal experience but I am pretty sure most ISP service agreements include clauses like, "...can terminate service at anytime, with or without notifying the user, for any reason deemed appropriate." or some such garbage. Take a look at your ISP's agreement, just what did you agree to???
    • by Silicon Avatar ( 30968 ) on Thursday August 23, 2001 @01:14PM (#2208937) Homepage
      > * ISP thinks you are spreading pirated moviesthrough Usenet

      Not to split hairs ... the ISP didn't necessarily think the person was spreading pirated movies. The ISP, as a corporate entity, has just as much 'right' to fear lawyers as we do. There's a provision in the DMCA that basically says "if tell you a user is pirating, you *must* do something or we'll sue you into oblivion". The ISP didn't throw these people in Jail. The ISP didn't call out the police. The ISP didn't even terminate the account.

      I think the ISP did a fairly reasonable thing. They directly cut off any ability for the users to further pirate. If the users had been home to see their service had been disconneted, its entirely possible this entire thing would've been resolved within 24 hours.

      Now, another debate is whether or not the DMCA should give anyone the 'ability' to demand an ISP take this kind of action ... I find that reprehensible.
    • As I (IANAL) understand the ISP provision of the DMCA, the accuser makes the allegation under the penalty of perjury. The defendant may also respond (under penalty of perjury) that she is not violating the DMCA. Thus, the author's boyfriend should be able to take the MPAA to court, though only for perjury. However, if the public can bring enough of these suits to bear against the MPAA, it might be able to make the MPAA review this strategy. There might also be grounds for "Class Action" status, but I'm way out of my understanding.

  • Harkening back to that interesting, if wierd, article by ESR: DMCA violates flerbage. Innocent parties had the time wasted, perhaps in this guy's case, his money wasted.

    I've heard some noises about how stupid the word 'flerbage' is, but you know what? I sure is a good concept to single out. It sure puts the true effects of law into perspective.

    • Flerbiage: (n) 1. An incredibly stupid word invented by the Open Source movement as part of an incredible verbal contortion in an effort to discuss Liberty and Freedom without having to openly admit that they are discussing Liberty and Freedom.

      Other than that, you make a very valid point: the DMCA does violate fundamental freedoms, liberties, and constitutional rights. See, no new word or verbal contortions required. :-)
  • They traced back the IP, determined that someone was "supposedly" distributing copyrighted materials from that address and notified the ISP.

    The ISP therefore HAS TO CUT OFF THE ACCOUNT or risk being sued by the copyright enforcement agency.

    And where's the customer (the one actually paying for the service) in all of this? Left without net access even though they didn't actually break any laws since they claim they weren't even at home when the incident occurred (although I admit that's pretty weak, I can run a file server while I'm away from my computer or mess with the clock to change the upload timestamp and then claim I wasn't home when it happened). No one contacted the customer to confirm anything, it was all done because the MPAA claimed they had "evidence"!

    Still, it points out HOW MUCH FREAKIN POWER these copyright agencies have. All the ISP's are so afraid of going to court that they give in every time! Yay freedom!

    • Shouldn't they have to get a court order to cut off your access? Shoudn't they have to show some level of proof to an official agency before "convicting" you of the offense?

      The cops can't come into my house and take away my VCR for a week because they suspect me of illegally copying movies... they need a warrant. Why they heck is it any different for copyright infringement on the Internet?

      Big Brother also has a bunch of Little Brothers running around the 'net... anybody else wanna be a Little Brother?

      Mad Mad Mad MadCow.

    • I remember when you used to have to be a skilled hacker/cracker to shut down someone's account. These days all you need is some offical looking stationary, a small book of leagalize, and the address of their ISP.

      I can just see it now. One jerk gets peeved off at someone, so he posts a movie to the usenet with bogus IP packets, then send a letter claiming to be from a major studio to his ISP. The best part is, the first step is completely optional, you can do this all with just the social engineering!

      This is why most laws in the US are taken on an "innocent until proven guilty" stance.
    • The ISP therefore HAS TO CUT OFF THE ACCOUNT or risk being sued by the copyright enforcement agency.

      I don't think so.

      Read the text [] of the DMCA, specifically Sec. 512. Limitations on liability relating to material online. By my reading, a service provider has NO liability for material stored on the subscriber's computer, or that transits the service provider's network.

    • > Still, it points out HOW MUCH FREAKIN POWER these copyright agencies have. All the ISP's are so afraid of going to court that they give in every time! Yay freedom!

      This problem can be easily tackled: a letter writing campaign! No, not to your senator, but to ISPs. Just make it look like a lawyer's letter claiming that such and such user infringed on this or that copyright. If enough people participate, this will create enough of a disruption that ISPs will become warier and warier of DMCA type letters.

      And don't worry about impersonating a lawyer: unlike their electronic counterparts, paper letters are almost untraceable. Just be sure to chose random targets; don't make the mistake of chosing personal enemies.

  • Not to sound like a broken record (although I doubt anyone is interested in my comments enough to read all my previous posts, but you never know...) but the only way to get practices like this to end is to become involved.

    From reading the article, it seems like the "identification" portion of the pirate hunt process is flawed. I suspect that the reason this person was accused was either because

    1. The person processing the information miscopied the IP address; or
    2. the IP address was spoofed.

    Cases like this are prime for exposing the inherent dangers of relying on IP addresses (or any other electronic address for that matter) as identifiers. The people affected must take the time to address the issues head-on. In this case, and IMHLO (the L is for Legal) a little detailed information of how networks operate applied in the right area would shine the great light of knowledge and understanding into some very dark legal corners.

  • J'accuse! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by havachu ( 108698 ) on Thursday August 23, 2001 @12:53PM (#2208774)
    From the article:

    If we are accused again of distributing copyrighted material, we lose our accounts for two weeks instead of one, and face banishment from our ISP.

    McCarthyism is alive and well in America. A little finger pointing is all it takes, and you are discredited forever.
  • I'm sure the ISP had a terms of service agreement. The first reaction of the ISP when it becomes aware of something illegal it should be to dump the connection immediately. Try arguing that a child pornographer's site should not be shut down until a court decides that it is, in fact, illegal. You and I both know that could be days, weeks, or months.

    People make honest mistakes (even people from large corporations) and when they realize they made a mistake, they fix it.
    • Sorry, but there is no reason sufficient to override due process.

      To bring your 'child pornography' example into alignment with the current discussion, it would be as if you were accused of having child pornography available on your site and were shut down, without even any proof that you actually are hosting it.

      The problem is not the whether to determine that the act in question is illegal, the problem is to determine that the course of action taken isn't taken without reasonable evidence that the person in question really is the party providing the illegal items.

    • ...there are consequences for the false accuser.

      Similarly, I think when one person accuses another of plotting murder, the police should immediately detain the accused person. But if the accuser lied, or even if they were honestly mistaken, they should be punished severely enough to keep people from making such accusations when they aren't certain.

      So when a copyright holder sends a threatening letter to an ISP over a user's alleged copyright infringement, if there is no copyright infringement they should be subject to severe penalties. It shouldn't be a matter of civil law either, requiring the offended party to bear the cost of challenging his accusers, they should simply be able to report it to the police (subject to penalties for false accusation themselves, of course).

      You could call the crime "legal thuggery" or something like that, and define it as "manipulation through the insincere threat of baseless litigation."

      OTOH, you could just straighten out the civil court system so you can't be hurt by baseless litigation...

      In any case, where there isn't any realistic threat of punishment to false accusers, nothing should be done to the accused without proof of guilt.
    • Blockquoth the poster:

      Try arguing that a child pornographer's site should not be shut down until a court decides that it is, in fact, illegal.

      OK, how about this: "A child pornographer's site should not be shut down until a court decides that it is, in fact, illegal. It should not be taken down because the principle of Due Process is at the core of the American justice system. Due Process is a statement that citizens have value, that government (and corporations) cannot at whim and willy-nilly obstruct citizens. Due Process is a means wherein justice can be served and the enforcers can be held accountable. I would want to see an alleged child pornography site shut down without a hearing to the exact same extent I'd want an alleged child pornographer's door broken down without a warrant -- that is, not at all."

      The courts move expeditiously in important matters. If the crime is really so blatant as to pose an iminent danger to the public, the warrant will come and come quickly. If you can't be bothered to get a warrant, perhaps there's really no substance to the charge.

      The powers of government are not untrammeled and unlimited. It is in the long term best interest of every citizen of a free state that the state be restricted in what it can do, even in areas of supposed public safety.

      How, then, can it be any less in the interest of every citizen of a free state that corporations be denied this power, too?

      The child pornography thing is an obvious straw man argument, but I don't care: It helps highlight the crucial bit of this case, which is not the alleged crime and its seriousness. The focus should be on the egregious and invasive display of arrogant power by the MPAA and the craven, sad, and futile kowtowing of the ISP.

  • Been there done that (Score:5, Informative)

    by isorox ( 205688 ) on Thursday August 23, 2001 @12:58PM (#2208804) Homepage Journal
    Something similar happened to me when I ran

    The day after I left for a 3 week sail in summer 1999, my ISP received an anonymous tipoff - at least they wouldnt tell me who, although I have an idea.

    The ISP shut the account down straight away, including email access. They then emailed me on with an explanation. Naturally it was unreadable, as I couldnt log in.

    About a week after I left I popped into an internet cafe to see what was going on, unfortunatly I couldnt read my botf email, hence had no contact with my ISP.

    when I got back, eventually it sorted itself out. I refused to pay for the time though, and as the site had pretty much crumbled to bits (3 weeks with no site means people dont come back), I contacted my credit card company and told them to hold payment.

    Why did they shut me down? I had 5 mp3's for download - these were mp3 versions of the wavs freely available on microprose's site. I had had permission to mirror the samples on my site.

    The (5) samples were also in a zip file.

    The ISP had heard about these files, obviously not researched them or contacted me - and just shut the site down ASAP.

    I will never use them again, needless to say. I hadnt been with them long, having just moved from a wonderful ISP, that unfortunatly couldnt offer me the facilities I needed. I have 2 domains with them now, and couldnt be happier with allwebco. Unfortunatly I forget the name of the ISP that shut me down - I think they went out of buisness.

    These mp3's were legal, but because of the hysteria of "mp3 == bad" arround then (and still arround today), I lost something ver dear to me.

    Ahh well, the game sucked anyway :)
    • These mp3's were legal, but because of the hysteria of "mp3 == bad" arround then (and still arround today), I lost something ver dear to me.

      Not that I use OGG, or am a big fan of it (i have never even tried it) but this makes a case for it. "MP3's on my web site? No way! those are illegal! I only have OGG files, and you've never even heard of those have u? Cuz they aren't illegal!"
  • We need to get rid of these extralegal enforcement methods: if they want to punish you , they should have to go to court, not dragoon your ISP into being the executioner. This requires either (1) a court finding the DMCA unconstitutional (likely): or (2) legislative action (increasingly likely).

    George Bush should wake up to the fact that everyone hates the MPAA & RIAA already (a recent NY Times profile of Hillary Rosen says that RIAA staffers don't wear RIAA t-shirts in public anymore because of the abuse they get) and that he can make a lot of political hay by beating up on them.

  • by eyeball ( 17206 ) on Thursday August 23, 2001 @12:59PM (#2208814) Journal
    Has anyone thought of filing a complaint with the MPAA's ISP, and telling them you have found evidence that there are copyrighted materials being pirated from their IP address? Create a dinky little mp3 song, then send a screenshoot of a text-based gnutella session saying it's being offered on x.x.x.x. Hell, why even stop at MPAA.. How would WB feel if they were down for a week? Or Disney? Or your congressman's web site?
  • The biggest question that remains in my mind in situations like this is how do they determine that you are sharing copyrighted works?

    For something to stand up in court, you would need (i would hope) an IP, a date & time, and the actual content in question itself, that was obtained from your machine illegally.

    It looks like the majority of these copyright monitoring services simply check file names and consider this sufficient.

    What happens when you are using a client that supports any file type (gnutella/freenet/etc) and they find 'Metallica - A history of the band.html' and send your ISP a nastygram? This is obviously not a video or music file, however, unless they download it, how do they know?

    Finally, I am concerned about people who use DHCP to configure their net access. Your IP changes every so often on cable/DSL. How accurate are their methods of finding the exact subscriber?

    Perhaps the person who had your current IP before you was sharing files. Now you have that IP, and they accidentally terminate your access. Where are the checks and balances in this process?

    The only solution in my mind right now is to switch to an ISP that isnt so trigger happy. Perhaps one that requires actual *proof* of any kind that such an infraction occured (like a copy of the file perhaps? even a description?) before terminated an account.

    Does anyone know how various DSL/cable modem providers stack up in this regard?
  • by imadork ( 226897 ) on Thursday August 23, 2001 @12:59PM (#2208816) Homepage
    Nigam also told me that if I told him my friend's IP address, he could find out exactly what had happened in his case. I told him I'd have to check with my friend first. Kutner then said that if my friend were truly innocent, he wouldn't have anything to hide.
    The thing is, he didn't have anything to hide in the first place, and he was still accused.

    I used to think that there was nothing wrong with the "if you're really innocent, you would have no problem with this" attitude. But now I see that it's a rather clever way to get people to give up their rights.

    By that logic, since I'm really innocent, I should have no problem with letting the Goverment (or Time Warner) look at all the files on my hard drive whenever they want to. I do have a problem with that, not because I pirate music, but because I just don't want them in my hard drive, and I shouldn't have to cooperate with them if I don't want to. (Remember... I haven't even been charged in a court yet, and they're cutting off my access!)

    I also have a problem with the "proprietary" techniques that are used to find copyright violators. How can you determine the difference between an illegal copy of "Titanic" and a two-hour streaming file of my dog on her floating raft in my pool named "Titanic"? The answer is that one has better acting, and the other has a bigger boat, but I can't believe that an algorithm can tell the difference between the two when they're all just bits anyway.

    How would you feel if the cop pulled you over and said "You broke the law back there, but we can't tell you how we caught you because that's proprietary."? This is no different.

    • by mcfiddish ( 35360 ) on Thursday August 23, 2001 @01:21PM (#2208976)
      Wouldn't you love to live in the United States of Nigam? I wonder if instead of

      "if my article had a moral, it should be that piracy is illegal",

      he meant to say

      "if my article had a moral, it should be that privacy is illegal"

    • A quick Google search [] found me this article about Puritan persecution in England []

      From the website: "Queen Elizabeth feared that she would lose her grip on the people if the Puritans were not held in check. She therefore introduced severe legislation against them. In spite of this, the various Puritan groups continued to meet, but secretly, in private homes."

      So we know Microsoft and other media outlets fund gov't in a big way from the previous story today, and we know that the DMCA protects these companies' copyrights, and we know that the government is the one passing and enforcing such a law. Hmmm... Sounds like a nice protection racket they've got going there. Keep those in power, there, everyone else: "Kiss our ass or we'll legislate you right out of existence!"

      I say again: Those who forget the past, are doomed to repeat it.

  • If you want to shut down someone's network, simply notify their upstream provider that they are distributing your copyrighted works. If the DMCA requires them to shut down the connection immediately as is implied by this article, what is to stop someone from utilizing this in a malicious manner?
    • And then you could refuse to back up your accusations, saying you didn't want to reveal your "proprietary" methods.

      I can see it now:

      Los Angeles, CA -- Today, an online psychic ordered 1,387,529,000 web sites shut down, in accordance with DMCA, claiming they all infringe on his private thoughts. George "Moonglow" Taylor alleges that web sites express private thoughts, and that he makes his income from private thoughts, therefore all the sites in question infringe his private rights. He refused to say how he determined which sites were in violation, citing "proprietary" methods.
      • ... ordered 1,387,529,000 web sites shut down...

        He refused to say how he determined which sites were in violation, citing "proprietary" methods.

        Well its obvious from the number of web sites that his "proprietary" method is visiting Google []. Scarier still is that I recognized that number so quickly... :-)
  • ISPs have their service agreements written in such a way that they can terminate service simply because they want to. I though /. had put out on more than one article pointing this out.

    Sue them? Please you agreed to the silly terms of service when you came on.

    Listen it sucks for the wrongfully screwed but what are you going to do? Go to the competition and set up your mp3/movie file server under a different provider of bandwidth.

    ISPs are a dime a dozen until AOL/Time/Warner can shut all of them down.

    Its harder to hit a moving target folks.

  • Idiots probably tracked an IP that changed when a DHCP license didn't get renewed...If it's like my cable modem, you don't get a static IP. Two weeks later...hmmm..let's hit this IP...whoops? Wrong one now.

    That's the rocket science of the MPAA for you...I feel like killing someone.

  • Time Warner is a copyright cop in their own right... it's more like "When copyright cops join forces" rather than a general indication of how ISP's operate.
  • by sTeF ( 8952 )
    i know from a secret source that the involved ip-adress was in fact:
  • methods (Score:4, Funny)

    by twitter ( 104583 ) on Thursday August 23, 2001 @01:07PM (#2208869) Homepage Journal
    The MPAA looks for people who are distributing movies in any form that they are not authorized to. It uses Ranger Online's software to monitor multiple areas of the Internet, including IRC, Gnutella, Usenet, Web sites, auction sites and ftp sites. It does this on an international basis. When it finds a location that is distributing copyrighted material, it identifies the owner and the host of the material. Citing the DMCA, it sends a letter and notifies the alleged perpetrators that they are infringing on a copyright.

    When I asked exactly how they find an instance of piracy (for instance, what search parameters they use), Nigam told me the methods were proprietary information.

    Heh, judging from the results they must be using MS Access to keep their records! Nice work. Just a few minutes ago, I was talking to a looser who likes to traffic in warez and movies. While bragging of getting "Spy Kids" two weeks before opening, he was no more worried about getting caught than my grandmother. GET A CLUE, MPAA!
    GET A LIFE, PEOPLE! Run your own ftp/http site and provide original content. Get movies from a theater, if you must, or rent them. Geazer! A whole week of bandwith consumption for something dumb like "Spy Kids"? And that crap is competing with me for Slashdot? GRRRR! You don't need this garbage, and it's providers are powerless when you quit demanding it. Sigh of relief.

    I wonder what kind of cyber brains are looking for child porn. Loosing email is one thing, having your house raided and all your stuff broken/confiscated is another.

  • Agreeing with a previous poster, just exactly how much damage was done? Sure, the ISP covered its butt and that resulted in a loss of internet for a couple of days. Big deal. The ISP certainly didn't do anything wrong.

    The MPAA, however, may be considered big, mean, and nasty for... oh wait they were just protecting their propery rights. And it looks like they made a mistake. Since Road Runner (TW)is like most ISP and uses Dynamic IPs, this sometimes happens. Oops.

    If the writer's boyfriend feels like he was treated terribly, then the process is simple: he can send the MPAA a complaint letter via certified mail. He can even ask them to pay for "damages" of about $5.00 since he was without internet for a couple of days. And maybe the MPAA will actually send an appology letter with a check for $2.50. If the boyfriend is really persistent, file a claim in small claims court--it costs about $35 here,and the loser pays. I'm sure he could get a settlement for $40, or win the case and earn $5.00. Big deal. Of course, then the MPAA will have lost in court...

    • Re:WTF (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Steve B ( 42864 )
      And it looks like they made a mistake.

      Nope; it looks like they recklessly fingered a private citizen as a criminal and disseminated that "mistake" for the express purpose of causing damage to that citizen. This is technically known as "libel" (I assume that the message to the ISP was in written rather than oral form; in the latter case, the term is "slander".)

  • I have a (Scary) theory on where this is headed.

    What we will have is a Compliance Bureau - a clearing house for people's information, much like today's credit bureaus...

    ISPs will report DMCA and other transgressions to these bureaus.

    When you go to an ISP to get a new account, they'll run a "Compliance Check" on you instead of a credit check. If you have a file, they'll see what's in it. Your ISP may decide to charge you a higher premium or require you to post a security deposit for insurance purposes if you have a "bad" file.

    Sure, after a while, Congress will pass a "Fair Internet Compliance Reporting Act" much like the Fair Credit Reporting Act that is used by creditors and bureaus today, but how much will that REALLY protect us... How many of you out there REALLY trust your credit card company and credit bureau?

    There will be a dispute policy, but ultimately it is the ISPs word against yours... so you will have to wear a scarlet "DMCA" every time you go "apply" for internet access.

    Unlike a criminal record, this is completely a CIVIL matter, which means preponderance of the evidence - someone thinks the bureau has a decent case, you're screwed for x number of years.

    Who's to say that if I just say "hey Time-Warner, go to HELL I'm going elsewhere" they won't put a mark on my file?

  • I seem to remember reading about this kind of thing during the whole Napster incident. If memory serves me correctly, the DMCA states that if someone finds an incident of copyright infringement, they must first attempt to contact the infringer directly with proof of the infringing action and a sworn (under enalty of perjury) statement that they are authorized to act on behalf of the copyright holder.

    If this is not possible or the infringer does not respond, then the copyright agent can contact the ISP and submit the same proof of infringment and swore statement.

    AT THAT POINT, the DMCA also states the ISP must give you, the "infringer" a chance to refute the charges with a sworn statment (also under penalty of perjury). If you refute the charges, then the ISP is no longer involved, they leave the content/connection alone and the copyright agent must then file charges against you in court to get a court to issue an order to block the material.

    So, if they are cutting access without sufficient proof and without giving you a chance to refute, the ISP is violating the DMCA safe harbor provision and your usage agreement. If the proof doesn't meet the standards in the DMCA then it certainly does not meet the watered-down standards of your average terms of service.

    IANAL, just what I remember reading.

    - JoeShmoe
  • I posted this two days ago, but of course 2001-08-21 22:16:52 Mainstream DMCA Coverage(articles,money) (rejected) for some unknown reason :-(

    The Washington Post [] has a small editorial [] regarding the dangers of the DMCA. Newsweek [] is carrying a similar piece [] [registration required]. Although this news is nothing new for the /. crowd, the Post is read regularly by members of congress and their staff. Maybe this is the kick-in-the-pants that congress needs to take another look at this terrible lobby. There is also a relevant discussion here [] on k5 [].
  • I think part of the problem in this story is that the guy has an account with 'Time-Warner Cable' who happens to be part of the same company that is an MPAA member. It looks like that there is probably a confidential information flow between the various parts of 'AOL-Time-Warner', hence the reason why it never went through the proper legal channels, ie it was all happening within the same company.

    I think the best thing this couple can do is go and find another provider that doesn't have the words AOL, Time or Warner included in its name.

    Sure this may not be what is happening, but in this case I am going to play by the same rules and insist the company is guilty until proven innocent.
  • Ok, before anyone marks me flamebait or something for supporting AOL, this happened many years ago before broadband was widely available (before the AOL-TW merger), during the closing days of pay-by-hour access.

    My parents once received an email at their AOL account for alledged violations of their Terms of Service. Turns out my younger brother used some profanity in a chat room and someone reported it. The email contained the log of the chat conversation, when it happened, what room, etc. It basically warned us that should another violation occur, the account would be temporarily disabled, a third violation is termination of the account. But only if the next violation occured within the next few months (dont remember if it was 3 or 6 or something), after that the violation is scratched from the record.

    In this case, AOL looked at the evidence and took appropriate steps to issue a warning to the master screen name on the account and what would happen if it occured again. They included the evidence they used to come to the conclusions they did.

    I don't know how AOL would respond to accusations of one of their users violating DMCA in today's world, especially with Time Warner being in the same bed as them. I'm no longer an AOL user (now an @Home user), and frankly dont care. I simply wanted to show what it used to be like in the good ol' days on the Internet.
  • I find it amusing that no-one ever goes after hotline [] while trying to abolish P2P software. This one single network has been around far longer than any other P2P software. In case you don't know already, it is an unregulated jungle where you can find just about any piece of software, movie, or mp3 you would ever want. Well, I probably just screwed the whole network by mentioning it here, but I am a karma whore after all ;-)
  • by heikkile ( 111814 ) on Thursday August 23, 2001 @01:29PM (#2209040) Homepage
    Anybody want to send an anonymous letter to MPAA complaining that pirated materials are distributed from ? Let them try to shut down the connection and see how EFF would react?
  • Hello, subscriber to my ISP services. You, along with tens-of-thousands (or was that hundreds-of-thousands) other people, have selected our services to access the Internet.

    If you haven't guessed already, we are attempting to be a profitable company. Most of you all are law-abiding citizens who on occasion like looking at porn sites, which as long as it is not in violation of your communities indecency laws we do not care. However, there are a limited number of you who take part in the illegal trade of intellectual property.

    We don't have the time or the FTE's to devote to look at each accusation of piracy that we receive, so instead of getting our balls in a vice we have deemed it best to just cut you off if we get a complaint about you. Jump through some hoops for us and we'll consider reconnecting your Internet.

    For us, like any other business, it's about money. We would rather lose your $40/mo. than get nailed for hudreds of thousands of dollars in damages by the MPAA. At the very least we'd have to hire some expensive lawyers to protect us in the matter.

  • Here's the corproate SWAT scenario. Graphic, but true:

    Corporate-sponsored, miltary-style copyright squads. Copyright-sponsored SWAT teams, licensed by Microsoft, Adobe, Sun, MPAA, RIAA (under whatever "license" they choose to deem official) running military-style ops to knock out egregious P2P "nodes".

    Running an especially active P2P node?

    Come 3AM in the morning, expect a white van to pull up outside your house/condo/apartment, filled to the brim with a covert tactical squad in full body armor and carrying fully-automatic weapons, two hundred pound door "key" to knock down those pesky screen doors.

    Search warrants? Not a chance. None of this is supported by state, local or even federal law enforcement.

    These renegade ops are private. Who has time for a search warrant? Or for due process? What matters here is that the RIAA and MPAA get their results.

    You wanna know who these guys are that have their gun barrels pointed at your head? Your girlfriend's head?

    Don't mean nothing when one guy has a steel toed boot across the back of your head and is pressing your cheek against the bathroom floor. One weapon is at the back of your head, the other's at the back of your girlfriend's head.

    And your dog -- he's already knocked out cold, thanks to the little "dog sleeping darts" these guys carry. Rottweiller? German Shepard? Doesn't make a difference. First thing these guys do is look for the dogs. One dart, and the dog's out cold, lying with his tongue flopped out his mouth in the middle of your living room floor.

    Meanwhile, all you see is odd flashes of light coming from all over your house. You can make out maybe five, six guys running around, screaming at the top of their lungs. But you can't tell for sure because everytime you sorta look around, the guy makes sure your forehead hits the floor with a thwap.

    Two of your teeth are already on the floor, and you can feel one loose in the back of your mouth. You can't tell if all the blood is coming from your mouth or your split lip.

    Your girlfriend is saying something -- yelling -- and these guys from behind their black goggles keep telling her to shut the fuck up. Shut the fuck up. She doesn't. And then you see one guy take some duct tape and put it over her mouth. She's still yelling something, but it's not as loud.

    That's when you start hearing the crashes and thumps in the bedroom above you. What are they knocking down -- the shelves? Overturning the beds? Throwing the monitor down on the floor?

    Couple seconds later, one guy comes down with your Dell Athlon box. Not the monitor, not the printer, just the white box with the keyboard cable hanging from it. The ethernet cable is still attached and he's dragging your Linksys hub -- bump, bump, bump -- down the stairs. He hustles out the front door. The guy above you gives you one more whack with his boot, then says, "Clear!" to someone.

    Suddenly all these guys start saying "Clear" to one another. You hear everybody run out the front door, down your porch, and the sound of tires squealing off.

    Meanwhile, you wait. You're not sure what to do. Your girlfriend is dragging her cheek against the kitchen floor to get the tape off her mouth.

    And you -- your lips and gums hurt like a sonofabitch. They tied your hands with those plastic twisti-cuffs but you've got one hand free. You touch your mouth -- your front teeth are gone. The blood from your mouth smells metallic. And you're not even sure what happened.

    Whatever it was, it took all of 2, maybe 3 minutes.

    And you have no idea who it was. For days, you try and figure it out. Cops show up, they're stymied.

    Was it a robbery?

    Well, no.

    These guys -- they were dressed in body armor?

    Yeah. Like SWAT.

    SWAT? The cops laugh. No, there's no SWAT here, son. Say, do you use drugs? Even smoked a little? Maybe it's some drug deal gone bad? One of your drug buddies come to get more of what you sold him?

    No. No it wasn't that.

    But the cops are suspicious. Say, maybe you'd like to come down with us? Answer a few questions?

    You say, well, no, I'd rather not.

    But they insist.

    While you're waiting in the back of the cruiser you hear the cops laughing: SWAT, yeah. Sure. What's this guy smoking?

    Some weird shit, that's for sure.

    They laugh some more.

    And that's that.

  • A journalistic experiment:

    Start a broadband account. Then, a few weeks later, send an evil-looking lawyer letter to the ISP in question, stating that you are the "Mendax Interactive Entertainment Company" and that your game property "Iron Fist Kung Fu" was pirated via IRC on X date from Y ip (yours) and see if it gets cut off...

    Excellent story-fodder, and no innocent bystanders harmed.
  • Verdict first, trial afterwards!
  • I see a lot of posts here, both for and against what happened to this lady, as well as explanations (however brief) as to how the IP could have been spoofed, yadayada...

    Nowhere have I seen any mention that someone has emailed her, leting her know more about the DMCA, making her aware of her options (such as switching services - oh! Maybe she can't do that! Maybe she doesn't _know_ that!), or lack thereof. Letting her know more about what the DMCA is being used for (2600, Dmitry, Felton, etc).

    Send her an email - show her links! Show her the problem!

    Here we have a jounalist who has had the DMCA used against her and her family - but maybe she didn't even know such law existed, and how it could affect her further, as well as her career as a journalist and writer. This woman could be a potential "ally", who may write further stories and do some investigative journalism into the DMCA and its abuse, and threatened abuse.

    Email her - let her know more...!
  • Internet access is not a Right, it's a service. I'm not saying what the RIAA and the ISP did was cool, but whilst they can't do an illegal search and siezure, they can certainly shut down your internet access without a warrant. The only recourse they will have to deal with is civil (i.e. when you take them to the People's Court [] and sue them for various damages.)

  • Heh.

    Take the MPAA to court and put out a subpoena for the methods that were used to incriminate these people. :)

  • Accountability (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SilentChris ( 452960 ) on Thursday August 23, 2001 @04:11PM (#2210230) Homepage
    If you're suspected to have committed a crime, you often will be arrested with provocation or even a search warrant. Is the law supposed to wait until you appear before a judge if you're holding an automatic weapon? What if you're a rapist?

    You don't need judicial review to be deemed a threat to society. And just because *your* definition of a threat may not be equal to *somebody else's* definition of a threat, or society's, doesn't mean you're free and innocent.

  • Here it goes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Frodo ( 1221 ) on Thursday August 23, 2001 @06:59PM (#2211190) Homepage
    Who it was that bragged about 'internet freedoms' and 'new reality' and stuff? Here it goes - every step you take is watched. You have absolutely no rights. Your access can be terminated any second without explaining a reason or giving you any chance to explain. All burden to prove your innocense is on you. Nobody has any obligation to even listen to you.
    Does no sound like too much of freedom, does it? Does sound as a 'new reality', though. Free people of America, get used to it. It will get worse - how many times would it take for ISP to make 'access history' and share the data? One complaint from MPAA - and you lose your broadband for life. Sounds good?

Who goeth a-borrowing goeth a-sorrowing. -- Thomas Tusser