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P2P Porn War Compo Scandal - How accurate are ISP's records?

Community Veteran
Posts: 1,112
Registered: 30-07-2007

P2P Porn War Compo Scandal - How accurate are ISP's records?

I read with interest today that a German company is asking £525 a pop compensation from UK folks who have allegedly downloaded a porn movie via P2P services.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/hi/technology/newsid_7766000/7766448.stm
It seems they managed to get a court order obliging ISP’s (including Plusnet) to divulge alleged offenders details from their IP address records.
http://www.digiprotect.org/html/hc_london_300608.html
As usual in these cases 60 year old grannies and net users who don’t even know what a P2P network is have received the letters demanding they hand over the dosh or else.
14 REPLIES
Community Veteran
Posts: 26,678
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Registered: 10-04-2007

Re: P2P Porn War Compo Scandal - How accurate are ISP's records?

I think the problem may not be the ISP records but that the P2P side is injecting fake IP addresses to create confusion.
jelv (a.k.a Spoon Whittler)
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Community Veteran
Posts: 1,112
Registered: 30-07-2007

Re: P2P Porn War Compo Scandal - How accurate are ISP's records?

I agree Jelv, but it makes a mockery of the ISP's handing over the doubtful IP info.
Community Veteran
Posts: 3,789
Registered: 08-06-2007

Re: P2P Porn War Compo Scandal - How accurate are ISP's records?

Well, the ISP's are handing out accurate information.  Unfortunately, the information they are given to comply with the legal demand is inaccurate!
Which is why the legality of the requests needs to be tested in a court - preferably with a whole raft of experts available to debunk the methodology of the company responsible.
B.
Community Veteran
Posts: 1,112
Registered: 30-07-2007

Re: P2P Porn War Compo Scandal - How accurate are ISP's records?

Let’s hope that happens soon!
Surely the ISP internal records can show whether or not the suspected IP address was connected through their servers to the P2P network or not, rather than accept the supposition from a third party that it was? I am not saying that an ISP shouldn’t give out the user details under legal request just that it should be able to corroborate or deny that the IP address concerned was or was not genuinely involved.
Community Veteran
Posts: 3,789
Registered: 08-06-2007

Re: P2P Porn War Compo Scandal - How accurate are ISP's records?

No - that's the point.  No ISP in the country has the ability to "record" a user's online experience and then refer back to it at a later date.  It would generate far too much data to be able to store efficiently (or economically!)
B.
Community Veteran
Posts: 1,112
Registered: 30-07-2007

Re: P2P Porn War Compo Scandal - How accurate are ISP's records?

Then for the German outfit it really is just guesswork, pah, worse than I thought!  Shocked
Community Veteran
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Registered: 05-04-2007

Re: P2P Porn War Compo Scandal - How accurate are ISP's records?

I can't ever see a case like this standing up in court, if it ever got that far.
How are they going to prove the individual did what they claimed?
Trouble is, I guess it'll have to come to court first for this nonsense to be thrown out.
Hopefully one of the scam victims will take it that far, rather than hand over the extortion money.
Community Veteran
Posts: 3,789
Registered: 08-06-2007

Re: P2P Porn War Compo Scandal - How accurate are ISP's records?

Well ofc, that's the problem.
Who has the spare cash to mount a legal defense against this?  It would be fairly costly and time consuming, and all that will happen is that the prosecuting company will drop it before it gets to court so there will never be a legal precedent in the area.
The only way to get them into court would be to counter-sue - but for what?  If they drop their case under the pretense of "oh dear, we made a mistake, ever so sorry etc." all you'd be able to do was sue them for (maybe) emotional distress, time wasted etc - it wouldn't set a legal precedent against the extortion that they're currently employing.
IANAL though..
B.
xpcomputers
Grafter
Posts: 460
Registered: 13-04-2007

Re: P2P Porn War Compo Scandal - How accurate are ISP's records?

Unfortunately ISPs aren't always as accurate as they could be in handing out this data either....
I had a friend phone me for IT advice a few months back.
A friend of his, had been sent one of these letters from a lawyer demanding money for a pirated game supposedly downloaded by P2P.
In this case it was fairly evident that the lady in question hadn't done the downloading, as she hadn't even had internet access at the time of the alleged infringement.
I was able to ascertain the facts and allay their fears and give them the terminology and the facts to be able to challenge her ISP. At first they denied handing out her info to the lawyers in question, but when pushed, they admitted that they do hand out such info, and in fact specifically HAD given them her info, on this occasion. With the explanation of the technology behind it all, that I'd been able to give the lady, she was able to explain to them that she hadn't been a customer of theirs at the time of the infringement (about 4 months before she joined and even had any internet access!).
They said she must have been given a "recycled IP address, which is very rare", so her IP address must have been used by someone else before her. (Suggesting that never happens normally!) IDIOTS! They'd clearly just looked up who was on that IP address on the day they got the letter from the lawyers, rather than on the day of infringement!!! Shocking, shoddy and scary; all at the same time!
They sent her a bunch of flowers "as a good will gesture", but refused to give her anything in writing to send to the lawyers chasing her! (Presumably they didn't want anything implicating them in case she used it as evidence to sue them for distress caused.)
She'd had many sleepless nights during the height of the demands - before I was phoned, and was able to set things straight for them and get it resolved.
The lawyers stopped chasing her, so either they were a bunch of cowboys themselves who were just out for extortion, and had no real evidence/inclination to take it to court, or her ISP called them off, and gave them the right customer to hassle!
I wonder how many other innocent people get implicated for "crimes" they haven't committed, but are unable to prove so easily that it wasn't them? Especially where they are multiple users of the connection, including teenagers, I guess the assumption would be that they must be guilty, and therefore have to pay up.
How many people know enough about the way IP addresses work to know that Dynamic IP can addresses change regularly, to be able to challenge a letter from a lawyer?
This is from my memory (so the details and facts are a little hazy now), but retelling it now, makes me think the ISP in question should be named and shamed! Maybe I should contact the lady again to get the facts straight to send to El Reg!
Mike

pierre_pierre
Grafter
Posts: 19,757
Registered: 30-07-2007

Re: P2P Porn War Compo Scandal - How accurate are ISP's records?

Even PN recycle name, when I joined the forum i got mixed up with another person, I think a Mod.  Also I was given Web space by PN at the time of the E-mail problem and got notification from the Web registrar with an address I did not recognise, it turned out to be the Other person home address.  Now it has got mine
James
Grafter
Posts: 21,036
Registered: 04-04-2007

Re: P2P Porn War Compo Scandal - How accurate are ISP's records?

Hi Peter,
I don't know about in the older days of Plusnet, but in the time I've been here, it's never been possible to reuse a username.
pierre_pierre
Grafter
Posts: 19,757
Registered: 30-07-2007

Re: P2P Porn War Compo Scandal - How accurate are ISP's records?

I think the mix up happened as I am on Free-online and he was on another, it happened in 2007 August I think, not that long ago
xpcomputers
Grafter
Posts: 460
Registered: 13-04-2007

Re: P2P Porn War Compo Scandal - How accurate are ISP's records?

I didn't think PN allow a username to be re-used, but they do allow it across the brands. In fact my brother has the PN version of my original F9 username.
IP addresses are always being recycled (too few of them around to do otherwise). It was just the outstanding ignorance of the unknown ISP's manager who claimed it was practically unheard of!
A few years ago, PC Pro had an article about the police's  "Operation Ore" investigations into people accused of downloading child porn. The writer reckoned the whole methodology was flawed and thousands of people were wrongly accused. I think 35 people committed suicide due to the ongoing pressure and stigma (if I remember correctly). Shocking stuff. Just shows you, if you are going to use evidence to prove something, you have to be sure that the evidence is rock solid. Are ISP's taking that due care and attention when handling these issues.
I think it was this month's PC Pro where they talked about an old lady in USA being "busted" for handling child porn. When Police turned up and saw the flat owner was an elderly lady, they realised it was just her unsecured wireless that had been used (probably not by her), and hundreds of apartments could have held the perpetrator, so the case was dropped. However, PC Pro was speculating what would have happened if the owner of that unsecured wireless point was a single male... would the Police have been as quick to see the error of the accusation, or might an innocent man have then been locked away, when the guilty party was really one of his free-loading neighbours.
Mike
Community Veteran
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Registered: 05-04-2007

Re: P2P Porn War Compo Scandal - How accurate are ISP's records?

It's the typical company bully-boy tactics which annoy me.
A company says you have done x, and it's either up to you to prove you haven't done it, or pay them y extortion money otherwise they'll follow through with a threat of court (which I doubt they would), but they rely on you caving in rather than dealing with the hassle of fighting it. Of course, the good old justice system in this country means "you're guilty until proven innocent" - or did I get that the other way round Smiley
I doubt anything based on IP address activity alone could stand, as people have said they could be forged, or re-used via a dynamic pool by your ISP. Even if they could prove you were using that IP address at the time, someone could have broken into your encrypted wireless. Not that I have first hand experience of doing so, but I have been reliably informed that it's not too difficult should you want to. I'm sure there are many more ways of spoofing IP's which I haven't thought of Smiley
Hence why police raid homes, seize PCs and analyse their HD contents in regard to Operation Ore.
If they also did that for copyright infringement, then I doubt they'd be many front doors left intact.