Caught Downloading Copyrighted Material—Now What?

Reader Liza is in a pickle and is looking for advice. She writes in:

I recently followed Lifehacker's guide to BitTorrent and set my laptop up with the uTorrent program. Using a combination of PizzaTorrent and uTorrent, I downloaded several movies and albums, perhaps 30 in all. Yesterday I received a letter in the mail from Cablevision (my ISP) saying that Paramount/Dreamworks had filed a complaint with them regarding my illegal download of one of their films.

The letter states that I am not being sued and my service is not being disconnected at this point but that Paramount/Dreamworks has the right to pursue legal action against me and Cablevision was warning me of that. I know Lifehacker doesn't endorse downloading copyrighted material—but we all know what uTorrent and these types of programs are being used for. Do any of you have experience with anything like this?

Anyone else receive the dreaded copyright infringement letter? How did you respond? Tell us what happened in the comments.


Comments

    My suggestion to you is to do 2 things.

    First, stop the torrent business and go easy for a while ;) I hear Rapidshare is great at this time of year.

    Second, do NOT reply to any communications, at all!

    At this stage you are invisible so to speak. Your ISP, as far as I know, is not allowed to disclose your details unless ordered by the courts. To get a court order for an ISP to turn over their customer details requires a certain level of assurance (that it was indeed you) from the media company: they don't have it. Since lets face it, you probably have a WiFi access point and your neighbour is probably leeching bandwidth of you, without your knowledge.

    The whole aim of the exercise is to make you to tremble in your little booties and submit your personal details directly to the media company; in an apology or "hey, it wasn't me" latter. At that stage you may find your self in a very smelly creek without a paddle.

    Relax, ignore the notice and stop violating international laws (or at least stop getting busted) ;)

    Another thing. This is unrelated to the media company... Your ISP could decide that you have violated their "Acceptable Usage Policy". At this stage, although VERY unlikely, they will disconnect your service. It will probably take a little bit more than a single notice (maybe 2) but this is a more realistic risk.

      I downloaded a patch of wow from a private server and my dad got an email saying i downloaded wow illigally and he axedentaly deleted the email will i get
      Into trouble for doing this im scared and i nee help im goig to delete utorent and i still want the patch can i still keep
      The game?

    What would the world be like now if Albert Einstein had taken copyright on his theories under the current US copyright laws?
    If you are in Australia, have a low income or pension and limited assets, just ignore all legal notices. They can't touch you.
    Use Linux / Tor / Ktorrent.

      Um, he did for his books, but E=MC2 is an idea, and thus can't be copyrighted.

    It is only the Americans who think they have a right to force the rest of the world to kow tow to their Big Business Mafia copyright laws.
    We all think these laws are crap and we won't accept them.
    The Yanks will try, but in the long run will not succeed, just as King Canute couldn't hold back the tide.

      Dude, Knut was proving a point, not trying to hold the tide back.
      Fool.

        Thank you! Finally, someone else who realises that Canute was trying to show his sycophantic followers that even he, the King, could not stop the incoming tide.

          wow someone actually mentioned my ancestor!
          not that that really matters but hey wow.

          I used a site recently and I didn't realize it was an illegal site so I deleted all the files and quit the site. as far as what I am reading I should be okay so this is reassuring. thx all for the posts. now I can get on with my life.

    It's not stealing,it's not stealing, it's not stealing, it's not stealing, it's not stealing, it's not stealing, it's not stealing, it's not stealing, it's not stealing, it's not stealing,
    The Empire want's to impose it's will on the world, and protect it's evil merchants from competition.
    Keep those bittorrents rolling!

      With respect, people who create a 'thing', be it a movie, a song, a picture or a hamburger, do so with the intention of selling their product. Sales of such products generate income with which they are able to feed themselves and their children. If a person utilises a method to acquire a product without payment or the consent of the producer/manufacturer it is theft, plain and simple.

        Hey Chris -AU ask your self this...What if a person buys a "thing", then decides to "share it"with other people for free?? This is not stealing on the part of the recipient , nor is it theft as the "thing" was lawfully purchased? This is irrespective of the type of" thing" purchased.. Your argument suggests that If I buy a hamburger, I cant then decide to give it to, or share it with someone for free of I want to?? Just not the case... Unless it is sold as a licensed product , which it isn't, then once I have it I can do what I want with it, as it is mine.. You are just simply not correct, file sharing is not illegal, unless you have stolen the material and or are the one who distributes it..

          That's different.
          Take any song, and let's say hypothetically everyone started sharing that song. The Band that worked hard to write that song and it's lyrics, now is completely out, because nobody has to buy the song. All you have to do is go to somebody who will share it with you. Now imagine that happening with all songs, movies, software, etc. And that being the only way people got media. Artists would be completely broke. It's hard to create something from scratch. It takes creativity, and a good idea to begin with. So Steevo ask your self this, what would you do if you created a song after a long time of sweat blood and tears, and then I came along and said, oh well sharing a hamburger is the same thing as sharing a song, so I will share your song, and make sure that nobody buys from you again. I'd kick that guy in the nuts.

          and guys if you want to stay safe while downloading a torrent, your best bet is to use some type of virtual private serve r. So either rent a seedbox, or a VPS. Their not expensive, and they're the best alternative. The reason I know this is because that's what I used, until I woke up and realized that I was being a dick, and hurting the Artists I was stealing from.

          @Steevo, I'm not going to say im innocent of downloading files that are less-than-legal, but your argument is pure crap. You compare a hamburger to a song or a movie, but that's a poor comparison: if I share the Hamburger with someone else, I am depriving myself of that part of it, or if I give it away, I deprive myself of all of it. Same if I buy a DVD and lend it to you. I now cannot watch that movie until you return it to me. However, what you are talking about here is completely different. You aren't sharing your movie with me, you are making a copy of the movie, and distributing it without the consent of the content producer. That would be like if you had a machine that could take a hamburger and create infinite more hamburgers from thin air, and then you give them to whoever you want. That's hardly the same as taking the one you bought and splitting it in half, and that would put the burger joint out of business pretty fast.

          Another problem with your argument is your understanding of the law. When you purchase a movie/song/whatever you aren't "buying" the song. You don't own the rights to it, and you certainly don't have the right to copy it. You are buying a license of the media. You are renting it permanently from them. You are not buying the rights to do whatever you want with it. If you wanted to buy the rights to do whatever you wanted with it, let me tell you it would be quite a bit more than $14.99.

          You may not like the law, but the laws are there to protect the content creators and distributors. You can disobey those laws all you want, but if you get caught, and the person you have stolen from wants to press charges, you will pay the price.

          The only thing I will say in your defense, and this is my justification, is that the entertainment industry is not suffering. They make obscene amounts of money from the box office, from TV ads, and from online services that license their content. Still though, not paying for media does hurt the companies or they wouldn't fight against it. Either way, the choice is yours, but don't justify it like you are just splitting a burger with a friend. It's not even close to the same thing.

            damn it you guys! I know this is an old post, but I'm just reading it, and now I really want a hamburger!

          When have you seen hamburgers in a torrent you ignorant nipple head! :)
          Everything out there is licensed material not because it is digital and can be easily replicated
          "copy and paste" means it is correct to do it or to participate in it in any way.

          If you could copy and paste a real analog media example a $525,000 Ferrari believe me Mr. Enzo would be pretty pissed. However this is an impossibility because of the physical laws that rule this universe (materia can only occupy one place at one given time) this is the only reason there are no piracy laws for Ferraris.... But there are patten laws cause guess what ......... bingo!you got it........ (or maybe not).........those can be replicated.

          I will go easier on you :
          How about the last item that you sold something to somebody, lets say that the buyer said before the purchase ... Hmmm let me see it first... And then POW ! he replicates it ...... He comes back telling you he no longer needs to buy it from you but thanks any way. lets hope the means to feeding your family did not depend on this sale.

          Not because it is easily done means it is correct. Example you taking a shit on top of your sisters bed. Easily done however this action will create a negative reaction to your sister.

          IT HURTS THE ECONOMY . ( not shitting on your sister bed .....the other thing)

          If you buy a toaster and loan it to a friend, that is completely different.
          A toaster does not have a copyright on it.
          A piece of music or a movie has a copyright on it.
          Plain and simply, if it is copyrighted and you copy it and give it to someone else, you are illegally distributing!! It is THEFT.

    is the xml tags in the torrent packets that bring this on? Paramount just got me too. Stating xml tracking.

    even i got a warning message from my ISP while downloading age of empire from utorrent. I thought I was being sued or something. I've stopped using torrent for quite some time now,
    But I want to know how it gets tracked!!

      They track you by your Ip address it like your social security number

    So yea.. definitely just got caught. strange feeling. I like downloading this shit too much to stop. I've heard Tor and Privoxy are good to help with that little problem. Anybody have any luck with it? I'm skeptical about using it, because I didn't see the first couple warnings until they turned off my service. I had to click the little "I understand and will take steps to comply" button just to get my service turned back on. Anywho, I'm done for a bit, but probably not for good.

    download peerguardian2... problem solved

    I was downloading torrents for over two years without any protection at all and most of the people I know don't use protection. In those two years I probably downloaded more stuff than the other people, but I still never got caught. Then in December 2007 I got a letter from my ISP saying they got a letter from TSPBay on the behave of NBC saying I downloaded an episode of 30 Rock. This really made me mad because I downloaded that two weeks prior watched it and deleted it. Why now? I then stopped downloading for 2 weeks and again I got the same letter from TSPBay on behave of Paramount for downloading ‘Into the Wild’. Now I was really scared because I didn't get a letter for two years and now I got two within two weeks of each other. Again, why now? Was there an increase in anti-p2p activity or what. Me being the daring person I am started downloading again a couple of weeks later but with ProtoWall and PG2. The problem I'm having now is my Internet stops after like four hours of downloading and I have to restart uTorrent and my modem and I don’t know why. Another weird thing is when this happens my download arrow turns red and doesn't just slow down.

    DubTrey speaks the truth.

    PeerGuardian 2 will block a huge blacklist of media corporations and anti-P2P organizations.

    It's a good thing!

    http://phoenixlabs.org/pg2/

      The Peer guardian or peerblock list is bull s***. Im getting sued for downloading a movie when i had the block lists activated.

    Okay, I work for an ISP, and we deal with copyright infringement notices occasionally.

    Basically we what happens is we get a notice from some watch dog group working for Paramount or Warner Brothers or whoever, and the notice from them says something like "IP address 172.19.136.128 downloaded Madea Goes to Jail at 11:30pm on 4/12/09". Then we check to see which one of our customers had that IP at that time.

    Then we usually tell the watchdog group we're handling it, and temporarily disconnect the internet for the customer. We then contact them and tell them they need to sign a document saying they won't do it again (this doesn't admit guilt on the customer's part though). Then, if the customer signs that, we'll turn their service back on.

    If that happens twice for the same customer, we'll usually disconnect them permanently.

    However, a lot of this is up to the discretion of the tech handling it. A lot of the time we don't even both looking up who the infringing party was. Also, none of that has a legal bearing, it's just about whether or not we'll continue to give them service.

    A customer can always say their computer was "hijacked" or someone was using their connection, etc.

      Luke, do you work for comcast?? Okay so today my dad got a letter saying that I had been downloading/Illegaly copyrighting movies and games. It said in my dad's email that I had been downloading Taylor Swift and Grand Theft Auto San Andreas. My mom and dad are affraid that they are going to get sued and I don't know what to do. I was downloading things from the website called "isohunt.com". What most likely is going to happen to us?? are we going to get fined. Or is our internet just going to be shut down on behalf of my account for downloading things off the internet illegally?? Please let me know as soon as possible. I am very nervous about this. But I will not do it again, and I will sign that contract that you guys have.

        My dad got a email about me downloadin all these movies eg: south park. This is my first letter my dad is worried that we will get sued and it only mentioned a bit of stuff I downloaded. I dont know what to do or what might happen I have downloaded about 100+ movies. Do you have any advice?

      Interesting. How would it work if, for example, you were employed by a mobile carrier? You know, thousands of customers on a shared static IP...

    I get those almost monthly for the last 3 years, it's a scare tactic does not mean anything.

      I Have been using torrent based SW since 2000. Down loaded 100 plus movies, 80,000 songs, 100 + games. Just last week my internet gets shut off for downloading hell boy2 , AOE3. No warning nothing. I know this is a long shot but there has to be a legal way to protect our ip address Against the mpaa, and other fascist entertainment moguls. And if for example the MPAA post a torrent to catch people is that not considered entrapment?(wich is what I believed happened to me on the hellboy 2 torrent)

        The notion that "entrapment" means no criminal conviction is possible is quite often delusional (and completely irrelevant in Australia). As ever, I find it slightly remarkable when people boast about the volume of pirate content they've accessed and then complain when they get caught.

          It is possible that you have gotten many threats but you did not receive them. Often when they send you threats, they send them to your isp email. Check that out.

    I got one when I download the Spore's creepy and cute pack... I ignored it and jumped off torrents completely and resorted to using other things like rapidshare and Apex DC++. It turned out to be a good move for me, as the speed (usually) surpass those of torrents

    I had gotten two letters and I learned my lesson. Don't even bother with torrents.

    There are a few things you should be doing in order to better secure your .torrent usage.

    1. http://www.mininova.org/tor/535093

    Grab the uTorrent IP Filter Updater and run it.

    This is for updating the ip filter list in µTorrent which will create a blacklist of IP addresses to block (MPAA/RIAA/AntiPiracy etc). To enable IP filtering in µTorrent, set "ipfilter.enable" to "true" in µTorrent's Advanced Options. To reload ipfilter.dat without restarting µTorrent, simply set ipfilter.enable to false, then to true again.

    2. Download and install PeerGuardian 2

    Make sure peerguardian is up to date and enabled.

    3. Privoxy is also a good program to have running.

    I've been using uTorrent for a number of years now and have never been sent a single notice. I would conclude in this instance at least that the above mentioned tactics have reduced the bullseye on my IP address from the size of the Milky Way Galaxy to the size of a sparrow in flight.

    These are a couple of things that the LifeHacker article did not explain when telling its readers how to use Bittorrent.

    There are plenty of legitimate uses for Bittorrent technology, one of which being how I downloaded my copy of Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty Jackalope, as well as a copy of Command and Conquer Red Alert when Westwood was giving it out for free.

    One thing I will concede is that Bittorrent, just like any technology, can be used for good and bad things, with good and bad defined depending on who you talk with. If the case is the latter, and you are downloading things which the RIAA/MPAA frown down upon (insert whatever intellectual property cartel exists in your country), then these three steps will reduce your bullseye.

    Personally, I believe copyright is out of control and entities such as RIAA/MPAA have no jurisdiction to enforce such ridiculous and outlandish demands over the world. Copyright laws are not representative of the majority of people, as clearly seen by the rampant and flagrant disregard for it around the world.

    Just because you have a lot of money to influence lawmakers in governments to make laws in your favor does not mean the general population will obey your newly bought laws. That's why there is such thing as democracy... the majority did not agree to it, and today they refuse to comply, no matter how much money or how many lawyers are sent out to attack.

    In short, just download whatever you want.

    Yes there is a consequence for doing so if you are caught, and this is something you must realize. On the books it's against the law, but those laws are meant to be made by the majority, and corporate interests as well as governments need to realize they cannot and will not cow tow the majority against their will.

    This aint stealing >.:(

    All this is why I'd advise stealing your connection from your neighbor's unsecured wireless hotspot. You get to pirate stuff and if they do track your ip and decide to sue they're going to get stuck with a serious lack of evidence, because they're at the wrong house, and look stupid in public yet again.

    I just got a letter from a law firm stating that in november of last year i downloaded a song illigaly and that they got a court order for my internet provider to hand over my name and adress they say i can settle if i sign a form to say i wont download or upload again and if i pay compenstion of £2975!! I had no warning from my Internet provider whatsoever just this letter.

      thats £295 not £2975 lol

        me too andy. was wondering what happened?

    so if this is your first time geting a letter whice mine was road runner wht will happen cause i had to click on that accept button on the bottom to gt the internet turned back on or is this just a warning

    My Internet was turned off and "turned over to government" this morning for downloading copyrighted material.... Am I screwed???? I'm scared that's for sure. I have downloaded maybe 5 movies.....

    Man Fuck the MPAA if they want to target people for downloading "illegal" music to make MORE money and piss everyone off. When they come for me and take me to court, take MY life away from me I will fucking destroy them... and people wonder why we have so many fucking criminals in this country... Not just this for instance. But when people have nothing, people resort to crime. This greedy piece of shit court system we have is what fucks this country over. The people that do stupid shit like this get to eat shit and the REAL criminals get to walk. Drunk drivers/drug dealers/People that rob gas stations etc dont even get $100,000 fucking fines.

    Yes. i downloaded tomb raider aod from the pirate bay. Didint get in trouble because comcast is nicer about it, they said that if you delete the downloaded file after 24 hours, nothing will happen. There nicer.

      So send them a letter 23 hours later telling them you deleted it. It's not like they can actually tell whether you delete something or not.

    also how is torrents illegal? Look at all the youtube videos showing how to download crap! I got caught downloading area 51 for pc and almost got in trouble, and the fucking game was released as freeware from midway. Also my friend got a copyright notice because he used utorrent to download ubuntu! ubuntu is free! WTF! And i agree with fuck the system about real criminals get let off easier then torrent downloaders.

    This is a very interesting conversation & more so cauz i feel plp from all over the globe are having a healthy chat bout this topic. Its clearly SAD hearing these laws & other legal words that describe a simple download as illegal & shit. I swear i feel like I wanna have 15 min with Obama and juz ask him a simple Q which is "how is an act defined as illegal if more than 1 million+ people are doing it"?????? may b even end it with R U FUKIN SERIOUS BRO?? like really y cant evry1 juz enjoy music & movies which r considered "Entertainment" y is entertaining myself ILLEGAL...FUK FUK FUK FUK paying my hard earned money to those already million $ making artist who will @ some point get back to selling crack & weed neways....lol the govt keeps shutting sites down & new sites & ways r evolved..
    PS - i dont have a letter yet but if i do i m basically saying "IT AINT ME" prove it & if they do then i m gonna tell them some1 did this 2 me cauz i m BROWN and my neighborhood hates me ...LMAOO there goes my immigrant card & now i m fukin suing my ISP for racial discrimination ...LMAOO the laws in this country r so twisted tat u can abuse it all day long & still b a free man...look @ the rappers & some athletes....LOL..this entire system is on steroids & drugs so juz sit back & relax & enjoy ... :)

    PEACE & Light folks !

    Sometimes the police can get your IP address when they take control over a downloading sites. It the future if you illegally download your basically a goner.
    Just use iTunes or buy a CD its legal.
    One question is, When someone catches you illegally downloading how do they contact you? Your Ip address changes alot.
    Most people get caught uploading instead of downloading.
    If you are downloading right now and you haven't been caught. Don't get all paranoid just stop downloading put what you have downloaded onto a usb stick and delete all of your history. Trust me they cannot sue you if there is more proof against their case than towards it.
    So; Stop Downloading, Delete all of your history, put it onto a usb stick or a disk, Exit the downloading toolbar and delete any saved downloads, and STOP DOWLOADING if you download there will be nothing to download in the future.
    Take my advice don't just ignore it saying, "It'll never happen to me."
    And hey I'm just a 12 year old boy typing on his laptop that doesn't mean I'm stupid.
    You'll be the one having to pay the fine, not me. So stop downloading you never know an Internet administrator could have access to your current IP address and they will see what you have been downloading.
    A question many people ask is, "What are the odds of getting caught downloading illegal files?." The answer to that will be....
    If you download 100 illegal files the chances are 1/10 that you will get caught.
    I stopped downloading illegally when I was 7 when I realised the risk factors and the money it;s costing for the file industries.
    And downloading illegally isn't rocket physics its just like folding together a paper jet.
    First you go onto www.filestube.com and search what you want.
    Good luck.
    Now you know the risks.
    And you must understand on what it does to the original creator (It takes over 500 hard working people to create a film)
    BEWARE!!!!
    And hey I'm just a kid in Australia in his first year of high school.
    Please reply for further details?
    And please don't underestimate my knowledge.

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