The Abuse Team at Allstream is not made up of attorneys and cannot give legal advice. This page is intended to give a general overview of how the copyright complaint process works. We will also discuss what you can do to avoid them in the future, since you are probably reading this because you have received one of our emails.
What is a copyright complaint?
Movies, television shows, music, video games etc. are all covered by copyrights in some fashion. When an agent/representative for a copyright owner discovers someone sharing protected material, they must gather many details about the infringement before they can file a complaint, such as; title, infringement source, date/time of the infringement, filename, file size, IP address, port number. They will take that information and compose a letter or an email that they will send to the abuse contact for the IP that they found their material coming from.
What can the copyright owner do to me as a result of the infringement?
Here are the legal penalties permitted for copyright infringement:
- Infringer pays the actual dollar amount of damages and profits.
- The law provides a range from $200 to $150,000 for each work infringed.
- Infringer pays for all attorney’s fees and court costs.
- The Court can issue an injunction to stop the infringing acts.
- The Court can impound the illegal works.
- The infringer can go to jail.
Why did it go to Allstream and not directly to me?
We generally do not disclose who is using our IP addresses. Customers who have large blocks of IP addresses may choose to have those blocks publically disclosed, but that is voluntary. For our discussion let’s assume that you have a small block of IP’s, or even just a single IP address. Since we are protecting your privacy, the copyright owners/agents send the copyright complaints to Allstream and we in turn forward them on to who is using the IP address.
I provide wireless as part of the hospitality industry, how does this apply to me?
This applies because whoever has the IP address is responsible for the activity on it. This is an area of legal exposure that we suggest discussing with your attorney. There is a balance between the liability and the demand from your clientele for wireless internet access. The general public is now expecting wireless access wherever they go. We understand the position that you are in and sympathize; unfortunately copyright protection does not seem to make exemptions for that kind of violation.
What is a BitTorrent?
A BitTorrent is a peer to peer file sharing protocol. It has been noted by fast company.com and financialpost.com that in 2011 BitTorrent users take up more bandwidth than Netflix and Hulu together. Since Netflix is the biggest consumer of internet bandwidth, that is saying something! There are well over thirty Windows based programs and many written for the Apple platform. The program takes the large files and breaks them into small pieces then sends them to the other computer. As the computer getting the pieces is receiving them and is putting them together, it starts sharing all of the pieces that it has to that point. These machines may be swapping pieces with tens and even hundreds of other computers at any given moment. I think you can see why copyright owners are not happy with all of that sharing of their work.
If you have recently seen very slow speeds on your internet connection, it could be a result of having a BitTorrent program running inside your network. The program will use all of the bandwidth it can to make MANY connections to the outside world to get the data as quickly as it can. This will make all of the other connections on your network have to compete to get that website to load or email to send/receive.
Can you tell me which of my computers has the file in question?
We can only see up to the first device after our hardware. If you have a firewall/router after our equipment, it may be able to log the data for you.
How can I stop infringement on my network?
This is an area that can be a little tricky. The most commonly used family of software involved with copyright complaints is the BitTorrent client. It used to be that you could just block the most commonly used BitTorrent ports, but that has changed. The newer BitTorrent programs will change ports to reestablish its connections. They will even use port 80 (the port you use to view websites) if it cannot find another way to send or receive the data.
There are some network security appliances that are capable of blocking the BitTorrent protocol. Most firewalls and routers are not able to do this. We would suggest that you consult your firewall/router’s documentation to find out about its capabilities. You may see documentation for BitTorrent or P2Psharing or P2P sites.
It may be helpful to start logging the less commonly used traffic on your firewall/router. You will expect to have data flowing on port 80 for web traffic, ports 25, 110, 143, and 587 for email. Unless you have blocked other ports, you will see ports frequently in use for other programs. It would be helpful to bookmark a good list of the commonly used ports to help you secure your network further. This step is not really to block the transfers, but to identify where in the LAN they are coming from.
I have blocked access to all of the BitTorrent sites that I could find, but I still get complaints. Why?
The most likely reason is that you have a user on the network that had already downloaded their tracker (the little file that tells a BitTorrent client where to start the download) from a site that you don’t have blocked, or they may be using a proxy server to bypass your security step.
Do I have to contact the complainant like they say?
We cannot tell you to talk to them or not to talk to them. At this point they do not know who you are. On the other side of the coin, you may be able to settle with them so that there would not be any further contact (unless there are new complaints) in the future.