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Do people actually get in trouble for downloading torrents of software?

Mountain View, CA |

My friends download torrents for video games and movies very often. They say that it's illegal but not to worry, since everybody does it. Also, they download MP3 songs from Youtube and put it on their iPod's as basically free music. Is this illegal? And if it is illegal, do my friends have to worry?

Attorney Answers 4

Posted

Yes. There are a wave of lawsuits suing individuals for downloading of a single film. I would estimate hundreds of thousands of suits in the past 2 years.

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Bruce E. Burdick

Bruce E. Burdick

Posted

The geeks will find a way (see http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120624/23541219454/tech-still-one-step-ahead-new-service-downloads-torrents-directly-to-dropbox.shtml) but the fools like your friend will get caught. If not an up to date geek porn pirate, best not to be a porn pirate at all.

Posted

Yes, they should worry a lot -- there is an increasingly common set of steps that copyright owners typically use to identify illegal downloaders these days. It may be different or more difficult due to the distributed nature of torrent downloads, but here's the basic way it happens.

First, sophisticated technology is used to identify the IP address of a computer or other device used to download copyrighted content. Next, copyright owners request that internet service provider (such as your cable company or whoever provides internet access to you) identify the internet service subscriber associated with the IP address for the particular day and time of the download. Sometimes the internet service provider provides the information immediately, and sometimes they give their subscribers notice of the demand so that the subscriber can seek legal relief from the request by going to court. Once the copyright owner identifies the subscriber, the normal practice is to send a letter threatening to sue unless a settlement is accepted of at least several thousand dollars. This isn't particularly fair since the subscriber isn't necessarily the person that used the computer, but it's the reality of how things work. (In fact, the subscriber is often a parent of a teenager that downloaded the content.) Nevertheless, it becomes an incredibly difficult and expensive situation to deal with once someone is identified and targeted by a copyright owner. There are a number of law firms and other entities today that specialize in exactly this sort of thing.

Your friends are correct that a lot of people today download copyrighted content without permission. They are very misguided, however, in thinking that they definitely won't get caught. It might take a while, and it might not ever happen, but the chance of them getting caught and having to pay thousands of dollars as a result is much higher than they likely believe.

The information provided here is general in nature, is not legal advice, and does not create an attorney-client relationship with Will Montague or Montague Law PLLC.

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12 comments

Asker

Posted

Thanks. About how long is the maximum time before the downloaded would be notified of the crime they committed?

Molly Cristin Hansen

Molly Cristin Hansen

Posted

Asker, No one can tell you that. The copyright owner has 3 years from the time they actual discover or "should have discovered" the infringement to file a lawsuit. So, the answer can largely depend on when the copyright owner "discovers" (or should have discovered) the infringement and obtains the associated IP address, name, address, etc.

William Leroy Montague Jr.

William Leroy Montague Jr.

Posted

I concur with Ms. Hansen -- at least three years from the date of the download, and possibly even longer.

Maurice N Ross

Maurice N Ross

Posted

Great answer by Mr. Mongague Jr. I would add that there are some anti "copyright troll" activists who are going around telling people that they need not worry about downloading copyrighted content. Do not listen to these people--they are acting on the misguided belief that the courts will not enforce copyrights against those who engage in illegal downloading. Let me assure you based on personal experience that the courts will enforce these copyright claims--and Congress allows courts to award damages of up to $150,000 per downloaded work if the infringement is found to be willful.

Bruce E. Burdick

Bruce E. Burdick

Posted

Update. Techies seem to have a new "fix" for the torrent trackers in this continual cat and mouse game. The new fix? Downloading to dropbox using "Boxopus" http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120624/23541219454/tech-still-one-step-ahead-new-service-downloads-torrents-directly-to-dropbox.shtml

Maurice N Ross

Maurice N Ross

Posted

Interesting. But the cloud computing services like Boxopus can be forced to reveal the IP addresses of those who download. It just adds another step in the process of tracking these people down. Note that several of my record label clients have decided that the best way to handle this is to essentially give their music away, and monetize their business through concerts, fan clubs, merchandise, etc. One of my clients, in particular, decided to make all of its catalog available for free on Sound Cloud, and the result was surprising---their actual record sales increased significantly. It turns out that the best way to promote music is to give it away ----------------------------------------------------------------- IRS Circular 230 Disclosure: To ensure compliance with requirements imposed by the IRS, we inform you that any tax advice contained in this communication (including any attachments) was not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding tax-related penalties under federal, state or local tax law or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any transaction or matter addressed herein. This message contains PRIVILEGED AND CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION intended solely for the use of the addressee(s) named above.

Bruce E. Burdick

Bruce E. Burdick

Posted

Of course, and they eventually will or boxopus will die or the investigators will figure how to penetrate it and get what they need, but it adds another layer and takes time and diverts from the effort to find a way to stop the streaming infringements, which is now the apparent major problem in this never-ending game.

William Leroy Montague Jr.

William Leroy Montague Jr.

Posted

Interesting product. Looks like Dropbox cut off Boxopus from using the Dropbox API shortly after the techdirt article though, due to the piracy stigma.

Bruce E. Burdick

Bruce E. Burdick

Posted

That "give it away" works often for startups who associate the giveaway with a well protected distinct brand name they own so the freeloaders do free marketing for the artist or inventor, and these freeloader seem to do that virally. So, the smart artist or inventor often knows "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em and use 'em to advantage."

Bruce E. Burdick

Bruce E. Burdick

Posted

That also works for a smart inventor, but how is a trade secret I charge for, but which you can no doubt guess. Call it the "Lemelson modernized" strategy or "smartphone patent wars for novices".

Bruce E. Burdick

Bruce E. Burdick

Posted

Good for Dropbox.! They should or they will be a litigation target.

Bruce E. Burdick

Bruce E. Burdick

Posted

And the game goes on---and on---and on. So the Techies will switch to Sugar Sync's API for awhile and then go back to streaming until that, too, gets busted. For the few pennies or dollars it now saves, piracy downloading is a stupid move. The money in it now is with Prenda Law and CEG.

Posted

Yes, it is illegal, and yes, your friends should worry. Bit Torrent servers log the IP addresses of everyone participating in that torrent. The name of the owner of that IP address can be subpoenaed and then sued. Settlements are in the $3000 to $7500 range.

www.bayoaklaw.com. 510-208-5500. This answer does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is not legal advice, because it is only of a general nature. Please contact a lawyer qualified in your jurisdiction to discuss your situation in confidence, using your factual details. Avvo answers are only general legal responses. Item 9 of Avvo.com's Terms and Conditions are incorporated in this disclaimer as though it were printed here.

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Bruce E. Burdick

Bruce E. Burdick

Posted

See http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120624/23541219454/tech-still-one-step-ahead-new-service-downloads-torrents-directly-to-dropbox.shtml

Andrew Kevin Jacobson

Andrew Kevin Jacobson

Posted

Thanks, Bruce -- interesting article.

Bruce E. Burdick

Bruce E. Burdick

Posted

Welcome. Of course, it's only a short-term workaround that geeks will use for a bit and then move on. Meanwhile John Does will continue with it and get nailed and be posting here on Avvo for help.

Posted

Your friend is a FOOL. Google "copyright troll", Ira Siegel, John Steele, Paul Duffy, Copyright Enforcement Group, Prenda Law, and see what you find. The copyright trolls have tracker software that pegs the IP Address of illegal downloaders, and subpoenas and suits may well follow, costing you lots of hassles and expense. Torrents are now one of the WORST ways to file share. Do it much, particularly with porn, and you will be sorry, very sorry.

So far, this is free to you. Until you pay a fee, I am not your lawyer and you are not my client, so you take any free advice at your sole risk. I am licensed in IL, MO, TX and am a Reg. Pat. Atty. so advice in any other jurisdiction is general advice and should be confirmed with an attorney licensed in that jurisdiction.

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Bruce E. Burdick

Bruce E. Burdick

Posted

The geeks will find a way (see http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120624/23541219454/tech-still-one-step-ahead-new-service-downloads-torrents-directly-to-dropbox.shtml) but the fools like your friend will get caught. If not an up to date geek porn pirate, best not to be a porn pirate at all.

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