Ask LH: Can I Still Be Fined If I Cancelled A Torrent Halfway Through?

Dear Lifehacker, The other day my friend started downloading a torrent of Game Of Thrones on my home computer. I discovered this a few minutes into the download and quickly deleted it. Can I still be fined? Technically I didn't download anything. Concernedly yours, Half Pirate.

Dear HP,

This is a somewhat complex question to answer, because in essence it relates to ongoing legal matters, and there’s not a whole lot of precedent in play. As always, if you did end up with any kind of threatened legal action, it would be wise to consult a lawyer first and foremost.

That out of the way, the prevailing legal winds suggest that it’s entirely likely that you could be fined were action taken against you even though you haven’t downloaded an entire copy of an episode. It’s quite likely that were an action taken against you, the ruling in the Dallas Buyers Club LLC case would be cited as precedent. There, the ISPs argued that because only slivers of a film were downloaded, copyright infringement could not be proved, but Justice Perram took a different view. He stated that

I am comfortably satisfied that the downloading of a sliver of the film from a single IP address provides strong circumstantial evidence that the end-user was infringing the copyright in the film. It certainly provides enough evidence on a preliminary discovery application. The applicants do not need to establish even a prima facie case of infringement for that purpose.

This of course relates to the issue of preliminary discovery currently at the heart of the Dallas Buyers Club case, however, Perram’s other comments do indicate a willingness to read copyright law as stating that even partial infringement, which a partially completed torrent would almost certainly qualify as, is still copyright infringement and something that could be pursued.

I therefore accept the submission made by the ISPs that the individual ISP addresses which Maverik Monitor detected making the film available for downloading from the identified IP addresses reveal only a download of a very small sliver of the film. I reject the ISPs’ argument that it is not sufficiently shown that the end-users infringed the film’s copyright because no ‘substantial’ copying occurred. I do so, in short, because that is not the question to be asked, which is instead whether the end-user has made the film available on the internet.

So what can you do if you do get chased down by HBO?

You could always get your friend to front up to court, cap in hand to admit to the crime, although that feels unlikely. You may be rescued by the new industry code of conduct that’s on the table right now that could only lead to a single information notice being sent to you if this is indeed your first infringement.

You could also keep your own neck off the line by more closely monitoring your home network activity with a tool such as Smoothwall. That won’t stop torrenting, but it’ll make it easier for you to identify a machine and perhaps a user if the copyright police do come knocking.

Cheers Lifehacker

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Comments

    "I am comfortably satisfied that the downloading of a sliver of the film from a single IP address provides strong circumstantial evidence that the end-user was infringing the copyright in the film."

    What a joke - even 50% of a video file is basically useless given torrents are downloaded in slices that are not necessarily sequential, so you wouldn't even have half an episode to watch.

      I think this is just them covering their asses. If downloading half didn't count then they'd have a hard time saying seeding a part of the file (how bittorrent works) would infringe copyright

    I don't know if this was argued in the court case but to me Maverick Eye always seemed like it used a process very similar to entrapment. As is common knowledge, a under cover police officer is only ever allowed to be a viewer of a crime. According to law he can't instigate any criminal activity or the perpetrators have a legal basis to say it was his fault that they were doing it and they normally never do. As I understand Maverick Eye participates in torrent downloading, to do this it needs to ask for a list of computers with the torrent available and then ask specific computers for parts of the file hence it is instigating the copyright infringement which then becomes entrapment. ??? Am I missing something

      I think you're making a few assumptions about how Maverick Eye operates. They seem more concerned with people uploading torrent slices rather than people downloading torrent slices from them. I could forsee them creating a custom torrent client that would allow them to connect to swarms, harvest IPs of people uploading torrent pieces and keeping the uploaded data while not actively uploading any data or at least uploading hoax data.

      This seems more like standard surveillance than entrapment. Is entrapment even a thing under Australian law, or is it just some American TV guff?

        It is a law in America but I just looked it up and it isn't in Australia

    If you started torrenting, you started sharing. That is what gets you. Even if you only shared a little bit, you are still on the line. Since our upload speeds are pretty crap, just about everyone who downloads will not upload a full copy unless they intend to.

    I reject the ISPs’ argument that it is not sufficiently shown that the end-users infringed the film’s copyright because no ‘substantial’ copying occurred. I do so, in short, because that is not the question to be asked, which is instead whether the end-user has made the film available on the internet.

    Yeah, this is pretty much the crux here. You may not have consumed the content, but you helped circulate it for others to download.

    The only answer to this question is no, you can't be fined. This sort of copyright infringement is a civil matter and fines can't be issued in civil matters. However, damages can be claimed and awarded. There is no require to pay any damages or claim until a court order is issued directing payment.

    Follow up question - If the end user only leeches, but not seeds, are they guilty of making the movie available?
    Do they come under this action?
    (I know it goes against the principle of the torrent, but just asking)

    If your friend used your kitchen knife to stab someone, would you get fined? No. Its the same situation

    If the water company provides water to you... does that mean Coca-Cola could sue for damages since part of making coke requires water and Coke is a trademark and a "slither" of their process requires water? Every time you have a shower you could be infringing on copyrighted process / material?

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