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UK P2P Game Crackdown Catches Non-Gaming Elderly Couple

UK P2P Game Crackdown Catches Non-Gaming Elderly Couple

Proves that copyright holders’ reliance on IP addresses to determine illegal file-sharing guilt is flawed.

About two months ago I reported how UK-based law firm Davenport Lyons is leading the charge on behalf of Atari, Topware Interactive, Reality Pump, Techland and Codemaster game developers to crack down on the illegal file-sharing of their respective titles. Now comes word that an elderly UK couple was caught up in the dragnet despite never having even played a video game or used file-sharing software of any kind.

“We do not have, and have never had, any computer game or sharing software,” said Gill Murdoch and her husband, aged 54 and 66 respectively. “We did not even know what ‘peer to peer’ was until we received the letter.”

Their case has since been dropped without comment by Atari, but it makes you wonder just how many others have been bullied into settling despite never having shared the copyrighted games in question. For the number of people to be targeted in this video game piracy crackdown was rumored to eventually reach the tens of thousands, each being given a chance to pay 300 pounds ($557 USD) for damages to settle out of court. Those refusing will “face immediate legal action.”

Suspected file-sharers are identified by Swiss forensic computer company Logistep which uses a number of different methods to extract user info from P2P services like Gnutella, BitTorrent, and eDonkey and claim to be able to accurately identify people sharing files illegally.

The only problem with this is that an IP address merely identifies a location that shared a file with a certain filename at a specific time. What happens if the filename doesn’t accurately describe the contents? How can they prove that a specific person was using that computer at that time? What happens if the Wi-Fi network attached to the IP address was open and not secured?

The number of cases of innocent people being caught up in this piracy dragnet are piling up according to Michael Coyle, an intellectual property lawyer at the law firm Lawdit. He’s spoken to “hundreds” of people like the elderly couple mentioned above and currently represents some 70 fighting the accusations.

“Some of them are senior citizens who don’t know what a game is, let alone the software that allows them to be shared,” he said.

There is no way to independently verify the data Logistep produces, yet it’s use is threatened to be submitted in a court of law for litigation? It’s ridiculous. The only way to prove piracy beyond a shadow of a doubt is by examining the contents of a person’s HDD.

Let’s see copyright holders try and gain access to the PCs of tens of thousands of UK citizens.

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Jared Moya
I've been interested in P2P since the early, high-flying days of Napster and KaZaA. I believe that analog copyright laws are ill-suited to the digital age, and that art and culture shouldn't be subject to the whims of international entertainment industry conglomerates. Twitter | Google Plus

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