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Legal implications of flatmates running p2p on home network?

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Legal implications of flatmates running p2p on home network?

With all this stuff from the British Phonographic Institute about sueing p2p uploaders, I've been wondering how that affects me. I don't do any p2p myself - I personally don't want to take the risk of getting into trouble - but I don't know if my flatmates also do the same or not..

We've got a home network connected to the net by a Force9 512kbit ADSL line., which is registered in my name, although the cost is split equally with my flatmates. Does anyone know what the legal implications of this are? I don't know what they do online - I don't ask as I assume it's none of my business, but I do run a network traffic auditer. According to the daily summaries, they occasionally transfer large amounts of traffic.

This isn't a problem for me technically, but I read that when the BPI identify a target offender, they contact the ISP and get the account owners information and take action against that person. So if one of my flatmates did something that attracted the attention of the BPI (not that I know whether they actually do or not), I would be the person who would be in trouble with the BPI, wouldn't I?

My traffic auditer also keeps a log of all connections so if I was provided information as to the specific source ports involved with the problem, I could trace it back to which computer specifically the traffic originated from.

So what should I do? Should I continue with not interfering with flatmates 'net access, letting them do whatever they want to do, or does this leave me personally (and individually) liable for whatever they do online?

Thanks for any comments!
8 REPLIES
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Legal implications of flatmates running p2p on home network?

Lets start from the top, since the account is registered in your name, you are liable from Force9's point of view, if your account is used in an illegal way. In fact it's in your terms and conditions.

The BPI are currently targeting about the top fileshares, not people who download the odd casual track, although any downloading of copyright material which you don't own is illegal.

At a guess and I'm not a lawyer, if the BPI were interested in you in any shape or form, Force9 would have already been contacted and would probably be asking you to stop downloading illegal material or face your account being shut down.

If the BPI were interested in downloads via your account, I would have thought they would want the person who downloaded the material, although you could in theory be held accountable in some form.

Finally the account is in your name, so your accoutable for what the account is used for, and you would be the first point of contact by the police/BPI etc.
Plusnet Staff
Plusnet Staff
Posts: 12,169
Thanks: 18
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Registered: 04-04-2007

Legal implications of flatmates running p2p on home network?

Hi,

This is a difficult one to give you a definate answer, in part because it is theoretical and to my knowledge never happened to any of our customers.

If the account is in your name, then if a police request was received, it would be your details that are passed on (and it is only a police/court request that would get your details).

After that I don't know what would happen. It might work in the same way as speeding offences for example where they write to the car's owner asking who was driving (i.e. ask who was downloading).

As I say, this is purely hypothetical, and I wouldn't worry about it.
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Legal implications of flatmates running p2p on home network?

simplyweb:

Yes, that sounds reasonable - as I'm the registered owner of the account, I wouldn't expect anyone but me to be contacted in case of any copyright infringments (not that I know of any going on in my apartment, actually).

I have no problem with being liable from force9's point of view for what happens on my account (as I said, I own the account - you've got to have someone to contact in case of problems), but the bit that sounds a bit odd is when you say (well, imply) that I am *legally* liable for whatever the account is used for.

Is this not a little unreasonable? If someone in my flat commits a crime, then it is they who should face the consequences for that crime. Surely it doesn't matter how they committed the crime - whether by downloading copyrighted material via the internet, or by photocopying books using the library photocopier, it's the crime which is illegal, not that it was done over an ADSL line?? That would be like taking action against public photocopier owners (libraries, unversities etc...) as some people are photocopying text illegally using them!

dtomlinson: What you suggested as one of the things that might happen - that they treat it like a driving offense, asking the account owner to identify the culprit, was what I was hoping someone would say IS the case, but I guess the only people who can tell me that are the BPI.

Of course, I'm a little hesitant to contact the BPI - don't want to go sticking my head up, standing out from the crowd - they might start investigating me just for kicks and find that I'm one of these super uploaders! Maybe I should speak to my flatmates about the specific nature of their internet traffic before jumping in to anything.

Out of curiosity, would it be possible to get my flatmates names put in as co-owners of this account? And if so, would this help matters, or would it make us jointly liable for infringments committed by any one party?

Thanks for the feedback, by the way!
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Legal implications of flatmates running p2p on home network?

Quote

I have no problem with being liable from force9's point of view for what happens on my account (as I said, I own the account - you've got to have someone to contact in case of problems), but the bit that sounds a bit odd is when you say (well, imply) that I am *legally* liable for whatever the account is used for.


The reason I imply that you could be held accountable, is that because the account is in your name, and because of the force9 T&C conditions state the account should not be used for illegal activity. This mean your responsable for the account and what it's used for. Therefore the onus is on you to control what is downloaded.

It's a legal minefield to be honest and has lots of grey areas.
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Legal implications of flatmates running p2p on home network?

I wouldn't have thought that force9 have any legal authority: if they state that you shouldn't use the account for illegal activity (not that I do), then presumably that's because it's not something they condone, and they're letting you know that if you do, you could get into trouble from someone with legal powers (police etc...) - and that force9 may terminate your DSL connection.

But that's a different matter from someone with legal jurisdiction finding that illegal activity is going on: force9 aren't going to charge users with copyright offenses if people steal copyrighted material (??), that's the role of law enforcement organisations.

I wonder, would any of the plus.net team be able to contact the legal people at the BPI and find out who is liable for breaking copyright law when shared internet connections are involved?
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Legal implications of flatmates running p2p on home network?

Plus Net Plc in theory could shutdown your account yes. However the legal frame of your contract with Plus Net (aka force9) could be used against you by legal authorities, since it states that the person using the account must not under take to you the account for anything illegal.

It's a valid contract and you as a person could be held in breach of contract, for breaking it.

As for your last comment, well it's a shared connection from your personal point of view, but from the contract, i.e. legal, it's not. You are the only person on the contract.

As I said before I'm not a lawyer and this is all really gray area stuff. So if your really worried, take a copy of your T&C and discuss them with someone in the legal profession, who could find out the answer for you.

Also these cases that are coming up, might cover this area of law and could give you the answer you seek.

Cheers,

Aaron
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Legal implications of flatmates running p2p on home network?

That seems fair - if my contract with force9 is broken my someone using my DSL connection, then I'm the one responsible for breaching that contract, and I should have to face up to any penalties for breaking the force9 terms and conditions - as you say, it is my account after all.

But by illegally downloading copyright material, two things are being broken: copyright law and force9's T&C. Force9 hold me accountable for the latter (which as I said, is understandable), but the former is a seperate issue - I just don't see why I should be responsible to a copyright holder, say Sony Music, for someone else breaking copyright law when I had nothing to do with it, although I do see why I'm responsible for the adherence to the Force9 terms and conditions.

I wonder - If I wrote up some terms and conditions for use of my network which I got my flatmates to sign, stating that they are individually responsible for their own use of the network, would that in any way protect me from what they do online? I know it sounds quite a mean and over-zealous thing to do to friends, but we live in a litigious society and at the end of the day I don't want to be banged up for 20 years because my flatmates, unknown to me and against my wishes, downloaded The Darkness's latest album.

You're right though, I do need to consult a lawyer about this... but I really can't afford a lawyer - I'm just a student! At university it's common to hear people talking about sharing a broadband connection these days, thousands of students around my city (and in others, I'm sure) do this, especially with the take-up of cheap/easy-to-use 802.11 wireless routers and cards.

So this isn't something that affects just me, but a huge number of people throughout the UK - everyone who runs a home network, in fact, which as I say with the advent of wireless is much more common than it used to be.

So as this would be relevent to a fair percentage of force9's customers, and as plus.net probably have a legal team, perhaps they could look into this and add something to one of their FAQ's (although I don't know if this question is asked particularly frequently), just outlining the legal situation you place yourself in by allowing others to use your ADSL connection - and if there's anything you can do to limit your liability.

Anyone at Force9 - Is this possible?
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Legal implications of flatmates running p2p on home network?

Hi,

I agree that it would be unlikely that BPI would prosecute you directly, if your account was used for illegal music downloads. The reason I said you could be held accountable to some degree, is that the account is in your name and therefore you should know what it being used for. It could be argued in court that since the contract is in your name and you should have known what was being download, since your required to by Force 9 T&C.

Can you see what I'm getting at? It would be unlikely but there is a slim chance, more likely you get a caution / slap on the wrist, don't do it again style.

If you drew up your own contract among your flat mates, I don't quite know where you would stand, since yours is still the only name on the force9 contract. I would ask Force9 if you can add more people to the contract and that would settle the argument.
However you don't want to fall out with your flatmates and they might take it the wrong way, if you asked them to sign a contract like the one your describing.

Your student union or your uni student services should have someone who can help from the legal persepectivte or at the very least be able to find this information out.

Yes this issue could affect lots of people, for example how would you stand if someone hijacked your wireless connection outside your house and use it illegal. Where is the line....... where would someone stand?

Aaron