If you were a parent and received a letter from your broadband service provider stating that your connection was suspected of being used for illegally downloading copyrighted material, who would you suspect?
Copyright holders who become aware that someone is distributing their content illegally often notify the relevant broadband service provider, on whose network the activity is taking place, of their findings so that the providers can notify the end users or take appropriate action for repeat offenders. The purpose of these notices is to get users to be under no illusion as to the legality of what they are doing. However, being accused of something you are innocent of is a very distressing experience.
David Berrisford, a customer of Be Unlimited, received an e-mail from the company stating they had received a complaint that he was "suspected of illegally distributing copyrighted material". It included details of the material, date and his IP address. Mr Berrisford became rather concerned when he noted that the alleged distribution had occurred before he was even connected. Having raised the matter to Be's awareness, they acknowledged the information they had provided referred to another customer, but re-iterating there was a flag on his account too, this time providing new evidence:
Infringement Last Documented: 3 Apr 2007 12:52:56 GMT
Infringer Username: Infringing Filename: STARCRAFT.iso
Infringing Filesize: 668266496
Infringer IP Address: 87.194.x.x
Mr Berrisford persisted pointing out that the IP address quoted in the second infringement notice appears to have never been used by him. Finally, Be acknowledged that indeed there had been a mistake and apologised:
"All ISPs have a responsibility to ensure that material subject to copyright law is not distributed through their network. When copyright owners contact us, we are expected to pass the notification on to the members concerned. Unfortunately, part of this process is manual and on this occasion a member was incorrectly contacted regarding this matter. We have since apologised to the member and endeavoured to make amends for this mistake, and we have also put steps in place to prevent this from happening again"Dana Pressman (Managing Director), Be Unlimited
These notices are sent widely to ISPs by rights-holders who find their content is being distributed illegally. If you receive such a notice from your service provider, don't immediately assume the other users in your household must be guilty. Although Mr Berrisford was fortunate enough to know his connection could not have been used as suggested, others may not be so lucky. This process is likely to be manual to one degree or another in many service providers' organisations so mistakes are likely to take place from time to time.