- And here's a stock photo of someone doing something, possibly illegal, on the Internet. (Photo: Associated Press)
In a comment posted below my article today about a D.C. law firm's anti-piracy efforts, Davin Peterson wrote, "If you [have] a wireless modem/router you should enable the security features, change the default name and password so that someone can't use your wi-fi. If you do use a torrent software such as BitTorrent, be careful and don't share anything you download by turning the sharing feature off." His advice inspired me to come up with the following tips on avoiding legal trouble when downloading and/or uploading movies illegally. DISCLAIMER: This is not an endorsement of illegal file sharing, even though it kind of seems like one.
Follow Peterson's advice. In Dunlap, Grubb & Weaver's lawsuits, the firm states that the "swarm" nature of BitTorrent file sharing — in which you're downloading and sharing bits of a file simultaneously, and with multiple users — "makes every downloader also an uploader of the illegally transferred file(s)." Not, however, if you go to the preferences in your BitTorrent client (Xtorrent, Azureus, etc.) and turn off sharing in preferences. It appears that, in doing so, you would not be discovered by the software used in these lawsuits to pinpoint offending I.P. addresses.
Use private BitTorrent tracking sites. If you don't know the difference between a private and a public tracking site, then you're probably using a public one. The Pirate Bay, Mininova, and Torrent Reactor are all examples of public sites, which means your I.P. address is visible to anyone. Popular private sites, to which you must be invited, include Demonoid and Bit Me.
Don't download or share files illegally. This one's pretty self-explanatory.
Zeropaid.com has a more technical list of advice than I can provide, should you happen to know what a "supernode" is. And the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which filed an amicus brief in support of defendants in several Dunlap cases, created a page entitled "How To Not Get Sued for File Sharing (And Other Ideas To Avoid Being Treated Like a Criminal)." Despite the split infinitive, it's a useful, comprehensive guide, and not without opinion. Regarding the option to disable sharing/uploading, it reads, "We hate this option — it blocks your non-infringing sharing, and it doesn't get us any closer to a real solution that gets artists paid while making file sharing legal. But, at the moment, it does appear that turning off sharing will reduce your chances of becoming a lawsuit target."
Which is more important: advancing the cause of legalized file sharing, or not getting caught? Being a martyr, after all, could cost you up to $150,000.