Ask LH: I’ve Been Busted For My Housemate’s Torrents, What Can I Do?

Ask LH: I’ve Been Busted For My Housemate’s Torrents, What Can I Do?

Hi LH. I recently received an email from my ISP on behalf of 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

[credit provider=”HBO” url=””]

Dear I&I,

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.

See also: Why I Stopped Pirating And Started Paying For Media | Australia’s Best (Legal) Online Movie Services

Cheers Lifehacker

Got your own question you want to put to Lifehacker? Send it using our [contact text=”contact form”].


  • Most people get freaked out after the recieve their first, buy once you realise the providers dont actually care and all they are doing is just fowarding it on to make it look like they care. Ive had about ten of them with TPG and they havent dont anything. Dont Fret, just read torrent comments or stream instead of downloading

  • I remember us getting one of these notices, I dunno who the culprit was technically or just a general warning because we couldn’t think of more stuff to hit our 500gb cap each month so just endlessly downloaded random torrents but they really don’t follow up in any way shape or form.

  • If anybody asks, just tell them that you inadvertently had all your wifi security turned off on your router, so it was probably one of your neighbours doing it 😛

    • I’ll tell you now, that “excuse”, will not hold up in any court. Anywhere, EVER.

      • It hasn’t ever been tried here, so you are making a statement based on absolutely nothing at all, iikimochi.

        In other words, talking out your arse.

        • I’m sure some can expand on the premise; in law(Australia) ignorance, is not nor will ever be held as a adequate defense. This has been tested and proven in multiple court cases ranging from speeding, ticketing, theft, house property damage(renovations without permit) & multiple other cases leading into federal offences.

          So I honestly do not think of ignorance of my wifi is sufficient in the eyes of law as a responsible able-bodied adult.

          • Ignorance is not the issue.

            You can deliberately leave your wifi open to all comers if you like. There is no law that requires you to do otherwise, and being the account holder does NOT make you legally responsible for the actions of other people (unless those people are your children).

          • Already an established precedent would be that using and consuming illicit drugs within a public domain i.e. lounge room/kitchen/shared bathroom would constitute an active or associated ownership/acceptance to said drugs used in specified areas(there is a lot of grey here). Meaning when applied to this wifi issue. Purposely not protecting shows negligence without proper due care as does ignorantly forgetting/not knowing how to protect it. with or without malice is irrelevant in these matters of copyright unless content exceeds certain thresholds.

          • Bad analogy, drugs are patently illegal whereas internet access is not. You examples of public domain are presumably in a private residence where actions are much more clearly endorsed. Open Wi-Fi for use in the signal’s vicinity doesn’t provide that level of control or liability.

            Claiming this an issue of negligence/due care would be like saying you should be held liable for a car thief’s joyride with your car after you accidentally left it unlocked.

          • not if it up 2 a jury! only judge wont accept ignorance as excuss a jury can always be convinced that how i beat a murder a charge! word!

        • If you seriously think that the “Shaggy defence” ( ) would ever have a chance getting you off…. Well good luck to you then.

          Also I’m quite sure lifehacker did make a post (sometime ago) explaining why this kind of defence would not hold up in court.

          • Allowing someone access to your internet connection, or any other service, does not (or should not) make you responsible for their actions.

            Would the account holder of an electricity connection be considered responsible if another tenant was using that electricity to grow marijuana without the account holder’s knowledge?

          • Would the account holder of an electricity connection be considered responsible if another tenant was using that electricity to grow marijuana without the account holder’s knowledge?
            Ah…. the Electrical supplier aren’t going to be the 1’s who have an issue with that…

            Also, You are responsible for their actions. If you have signed a contract with a supplier and then you allow someone else access to that service, It Is YOUR responsibility to make sure they abide by the rules and regulations of the contract you signed.
            The account holder is the 1 who is solely responsible for that account, As it should be.

  • These are automated emails that half the time reference US Law (not Australian Law). Your ISP is legally obliged to handle the complaints, but there’s no legal obligation of the rights-holder to actually prove they own the rights they are allegedly enforcing. In other words, it’s scaremongering that should be no cause for concern.

    That said, I wanted to clarify that in Australian Law one must only prove “on the balance of probabilities”, not “beyond reasonable doubt” that you infringed to be able to award damages.

    There is a big difference there.

    If they were to take you to court, chances are the first you’d hear of it is when they storm your house with a warrant and seize your computers. There is going to be far more real evidence on your HDD than a simple IP log. (This is when you should start worrying)

    Their next step (if the MPAA’s behaviour in the USA is anything to go by) is not to take you to court, but rather is to offer you an opportunity to pay them $4,000 – $10,000 for this to all go away.

    You (or your housemate) pay this extortion money, and they move on to the next target.

    • Your ISP is not required to contact you (see the iiNet case), but some still do anyway – I can only assume they are the most nervous ones of the bunch.

    • If I recall correctly, under Australian law the complainant also has to show substantive damage (we don’t have statutory damages like the US does), so you can only be sued for what they can prove you have cost them. This is a major contributing factor in why the pay-up-or-else schemes haven’t taken off in Australia. This may have changed, or I may be wrong about it, so happy to be corrected/updated on the situation.

      IANAL, etc.

  • iiNet dont even bother to pass on the messages.

    Its a scare tactic, they dont have any power here in Oz.

  • There are no fines in Australia.

    When you get a letter/email like this from your ISP it means someone has seen (or thinks they saw) an IP address belonging to your ISP in the swarm. They send a letter about this to your ISP.
    The monitors/rights holder do NOT have any idea who you are – all they know is which ISP your IP belongs to.

    Your ISP will not tell them who you are (if they’re a good ISP they won’t even bother contacting you about it – since the iiNet case it’s now clear there’s no requirement to do so in Australia)

    You can safely ignore this letter. They are extremely common, there are zero consequences.
    Do not under any circumstances contact the rights holders to “explain”. This is the only possible way they can learn your identity, and the only possible way they can attempt to threaten you further. (Note this “no contact” advice is specific only to letters/email from your ISP)

    I repeat, there are no fines in Australia. Relax.

  • I missed a step or two in my post above:
    The rights holders contact you ISP with their accusation.
    The ISP gives them no information in return, they just send you an email.
    The rights holders can do nothing more (the ISP acts as a buffer between you and the rights holder).
    The ISP is not interested in doing anything more (they aren’t in the habit of trying to upset paying customers).

  • Just as most comments are saying, Dont ever reply to them, they cant do anything.

    I think i read an article years ago saying that those companies are actually doing illegal activities themselves, usually putting up torrents of their own to “trap” you

  • make them use peerblocker then they can go about there ways and you wont get any of them anymore

  • i think America has pushed most Australians to torrenting, with the unnecessary price markup on all good’s here (games, movies and software) we just can’t afford it.

    classic example a video game on steam (no physical copy) in aus $50 in the u.s $12. This was when the Australian dollar was actually beating the American.

  • That’s if you can find a good Usenet indexer. A lot of content is being deleted these days.

  • Tell the rome mates to use Peer Block. Its not 100 percent effective at masking you but it does help. I have had no ISP notices. So google Peer Block.

    • Exactly, just use peerblock.. it helps for other things too. Gets rid of some ads while browsing etc

  • A shared house makes no difference. The account holder is responsible. They allowed others to use his connection.

    Imagine if that was accepted as an excuse. Yeah, I had visitors, I let them use ,my connection; someone must have hacked into my Wifi, etc.

    That wouldn’t be accepted for criminal proceedings – abusing people online, illegal porn, etc, etc. either.

Show more comments

Comments are closed.

Log in to comment on this story!