Hi LH. I recently received an email from my ISP on behalf of ip-echelon.com with the subject: 'Unauthorized Distribution of the Copyrighted Motion Picture', claiming I'd been responsible for an illicit download. I live in a share house of four, with the internet in my name. The date of this alleged incident happened on a week when I was away interstate.
Am I at risk of a large fine if my housemates keep at it? Is there any way I can block them without them knowing about it? Thanks, Innocent & Irate
Tracking shared usage can be difficult but it's not impossible — as we noted in a previous Ask LH post, you could try using a firewall solution to keep tabs on your roommates' download habits. For instance, Smoothwall can generate reports for each IP address on the network. If you assign specific addresses to each user and keep a record of everyone’s address you’ll be able to tie traffic to specific individuals.
That said, a single notice isn't going to automatically lead to more — make the point to your housemates that if they blatantly download pirated material, you'll have to look at not allowing internet access, or having the bill put in multiple names. Also, keep a travel diary so in the (slim) event of legal action, you can prove your non-involvement — you could also choose an ISP that blocks torrenting itself, which takes the onus off you.
In any event, we wouldn't lose too much sleep over this — the fact you live in a shared accommodation means it's extremely unlikely that any fines would be upheld; it's simply too difficult to prove beyond reasonable doubt who the culprit was.
Got your own question you want to put to Lifehacker? Send it using our contact form.