Hey, Hey, RIAA, How Many Folks Did You Threaten Today?

15 Apr 2011

In the first draft of this blog post, I titled it “Hey, Hey, RIAA, How Many Folks Did You Sue Today?” I was not actually sued, however, so I changed it.

Original Blogger tags: Charter, Piracy, Wi-Fi

So, this came in my e-mail yesterday:

Subject: [4.14.2011 5884907] Notice of Copyright Infringement
From: abuse@charter.net
Date: Thu, April 14, 2011 10:06 am
To: (me)

Dear Charter Internet Subscriber:

Charter Communications (“Charter”) has been notified by a copyright owner, or its authorized agent, that your Internet account may have been involved in the exchange of unauthorized copies of copyrighted material (e.g., music, movies, or software). We are enclosing a copy of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notice that Charter received from the copyright holder which includes the specific allegation.

Under the DMCA, copyright owners have the right to notify Charter’s register agent if they believe that a Charter customer has infringed on their work(s). When Charter receives a complaint notice from a copyright owner, Charter will notify the identifiable customer of the alleged infringement by providing them a copy of the submitted DMCA notice. As required by law, Charter may determine that the customer is a repeat copyright infringer and reserves the right to suspend or terminate the accounts of repeat copyright infringers.

It is possible that this activity has occurred without your permission or knowledge by an unauthorized user, a minor who may not fully understand the copyright laws, or even as a result of a computer virus. However, as the named subscriber on the account, you may be held responsible for any misuse of your account. Please be aware that using Charter’s service to engage in any form of copyright infringement is expressly prohibited by Charter’s Acceptable Use Policy and that repeat copyright infringement, or violations of any other Charter policy, may result in the suspension or termination of your service. You may view Charter’s rules and policies, including Charter’s Acceptable Use Policy, under the policies section of charter.com.   We ask that you take immediate action to stop the exchange of any infringing material. For additional information regarding copyright infringement and for a list of frequently asked questions, please visit charter.com/dmca.
If you have questions about this letter, you may contact us at 1-866-229-7286. Representatives will be available to take your call Monday through Friday 8am - 8pm, Saturday and Sunday 8am - 5pm (CST).


Charter Communications Security Resolution Team

— The following material was provided to us as evidence —

Hash: SHA1

Charter Communications
Sir or Madam:

I am contacting you on behalf of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) – the trade association whose member music companies create, manufacture, and distribute approximately 85% of all legitimate music sold in the United States.
If you are an Internet Service Provider (ISP), you have received this letter because we have identified a user on your network reproducing or distributing an unauthorized copy of a copyrighted sound recording. This letter constitutes notice to you that this user may be liable for infringing activity occurring on your network.
If you are an Internet subscriber (user), you have received this letter because your Internet account was used to illegally copy and/or distribute copyrighted music over the Internet through a peer to peer application.

Distributing copyrighted works on a peer to peer system is a public activity visible by other users on that network, including the RIAA. An historic 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision affirmed that uploading and downloading copyrighted works without the copyright owner’s permission is clearly illegal. You may be liable for the illegal activity occurring on your computer.

To avoid legal consequences, a user should immediately delete and disable access to the unauthorized music on your computer. Learn how at the “About Music Copyright Notices” section of www.riaa.com. That section also contains practical information about:

- How you were identified and why illegal downloading is not anonymous
- What next steps to take
- Where to get legal music online

We encourage Internet subscribers to visit the website www.musicunited.org, which contains valuable information about what is legal and what is not when it comes to copying music. It also links to some of the more popular online music services where fans can go to listen to and/or purchase their favorite songs.

We have attached below the details of the illegal file-sharing, including the time, date, and a sampling of the music shared. We assert that the information in this notice is accurate, based upon the data available to us. We have a good faith belief that this activity is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law. Under penalty of perjury, we submit that the RIAA is authorized to act on behalf of its member companies in matters involving the infringement of their sound recordings, including enforcing their copyrights and common law rights on the Internet. This letter does not constitute a waiver of any of our member’s rights, and all such rights are expressly reserved.

Thank you in advance for your cooperation. If you have any questions, please visit the “About Music Copyright Notices” section of www.riaa.com.

Jeremy Landis
Recording Industry Association of America
1025 F Street, NW, 10th Floor
Washington, D.C., 20004
Email: ispnoticefaq@riaa.com
Ph: 1-800-838-9775

List of infringing content
- ——————————

- ——————————
- ——————————
Infringing Work : IM NOT A HUMAN BEING
Filename : Lil.Wayne-Im.Not.A.Human.Being.EP-(Retail)-2010-[NoFS]
First found (UTC): 2011-04-06T23:04:16.53Z
Last found (UTC): 2011-04-06T23:04:16.53Z
Filesize : 124871909 bytes
IP Address: (MY IP ADDRESS AT THE TIME, allegedly)
IP Port: 50665
Network: BitTorrent
Protocol: BitTorrent
(I’ll spare you the XML that was included here, but it basically had a case ID, status, severity, etc; apparently there’s a schema for these).

I can’t tell you how much joy it gives me to finally be on the receiving end of one of these actual RIAA notices I’ve heard so many good things about!

Can you verify the signed section?

It appears it may have been somewhat mangled on Charter’s end and does not pass GPG verification (GPG says “authentication failed: no data”). But I don’t think this would tell me anything except whether the contents of the enclosure had been altered since it was signed. That might rule out certain types of copy-and-paste fraudulent notices, but it doesn’t tell me if it is really from the RIAA.

Did you download this music?

No. (Unless I have a very weird unknown and undetected virus, I suppose).

Did your son?

No. He has a little something I like to call “taste in music,” for which I am proud to take partial responsibility.

But you’re one of those computer geeks — surely you must pirate a lot of music?

Yes, I am a computer geek. But I don’t pirate music; my iTunes library has almost 10,000 songs, but they are all either ripped from my own CDs, purchased from the iTunes store, or were made available under a license that allows me to copy, such as the Creative Commons license I use for my own work.

Do you have a BitTorrent client on your computer?


Aha! I knew you were a pirate

Not so fast; there is a lot of legal material one can download using the BitTorrent protocol. For example, concert audio by bands that do not object to the free sharing of concert recordings. Public-domain files. Linux distributions…

Did you forget to secure your network?

No, I didn’t forget.

Then it must have been you!

No, I deliberately configured my Airport to provide a separate public guest network. I even named it “The Potts House Guest Network” to make this clear.

Why would anyone do that?

To be neighborly. I’ve often been in the position where I needed to bop onto someone else’s wi-fi to borrow a cup of bandwidth. I’ve tried not to abuse it. For example, when I was configuring my mother’s computer. I had to install a huge number of software updates. Have you ever tried to download a full load of updates over a modem, when the next-door neighbor has a wireless network just yards away? I had to stay up all night to get that done for her. What a pain.

I also did this in our old apartment building in Ann Arbor. Some of the broke college students that used it occasionally would thank me.

Did someone download a torrent while parked outside your house or something?

Apparently; I don’t think our connection would reach much father than that, since the Airport signal barely reaches from one side of the house to the other. I suppose one of the neighbors across the street might have been able to connect, but they are mostly elderly people, and I don’t think they listen to Lil’ Wayne.

I don’t know for certain, but I have no real reason to disbelieve the notice.

Surely it must be illegal to make your network open to the public?

I don’t believe so; if it is, why is it a configuration option?

However, in considering my options, I did discover that leaving my network open to anyone violates Charter’s terms of service, so I have reluctantly made it password-protected. If you’re actually visiting our home, ask me and I’ll give you the password.

It is interesting, though; if it is not illegal, but every available ISP in your area bars the practice, then it is effectively illegal, is it not? That seems like the kind of thing that one might be able to successfully challenge in a democracy that values free speech and treats media neutrally. It’s a shame we don’t have one.

Does the RIAA really have stateful packet monitoring going on right on Charter’s servers, or upstream from them?


Doesn’t that constitute some kind of entrapment, or at least unreasonable search and seizure?

IANAL (I am not a lawyer), but yes, in my opinion.

Are you liable for some kind of infringement committed on your openly shared internet connection?

Not in my book. Think of it this way: let’s suppose I do secure my connections, but my own security is inadequate, or the Airport firmware has an exploitable security flaw. Am I liable because I’m not a whiz at implementing network security? Is Apple liable for anything illegal done with the stolen bandwidth? Bruce Schneier runs an open wireless network, for similar reasons, and that’s good enough for me.

So why didn’t you just say screw it, and leave it open?

Because if Charter Communications decides to cancel my service, I have no other good options for high-speed internet in this area. If I were using it only for entertainment, I would not care that much. But I’m using the same connection for my wired work network, upon which I run the VPN connection to my office, and I can’t endanger that; relying heavily on svn and large file transfers, I really have no good alternative. Can you say “monopoly?”

You weren’t actually sued, though?

Technically true. I just changed the title to “threatened.” It was not worded as a threat per se, but the implicit threat is there, and I’m not very pleased about that.

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