This is How We Catch You Downloading

TorrentFreak are running a story about the means and methods used to track filesharers on P2P networks. The firm responsible for finding those sharing copyrighted works, Logistep AG, are using a piece of software called File Sharing Monitor.

File Sharing Monitor (FSM) is a modified Shareaza client that takes the following steps to identify alleged infringers:

  1. The client connects to the P2P network, searches for sources of the infringing file, and collects the IP addresses that were gathered through the search.
  2. The client requests to download (a piece of) the file from the host that was found through the search.
  3. The filename, file size, IP-address, P2P protocol, P2P application, time, and the username are automatically inserted into a database, if the host permits the download.
  4. This is the “best” part. The application does a WHOIS search for the ISP information and automatically sends an infringement letter to the ISP if needed.

(from TorrentFreak)

I see a couple of problems with this. Firstly, the client only downloads a single chunk from you, so they can’t be sure if the person is sharing a real copy. This is presuming the modified client goes looking for files based on name, for example, though they might be sure if they had a full hashset for a file. Perhaps TF have simplified the process somewhat, but from those steps it looks like the download is only requested, so hashing wouldn’t be possible.

The last step is the part I have a problem with – the automated part of the process. So they automatically send a letter of infringement to the ISP without being sure the person that had the IP was sharing? What if the file was a fake? What if they were running an open wireless network (like a few folk in my apartment building)? I’m not too comfortable with the idea of “automated lawsuits” either.

The TF article says “The claim is that the “File Sharing Monitor” is totally foolproof and that it can provide forensic-quality information to a court in order that file-sharers be punished.”. I doubt that FSM provides “forensic-quality” evidence. And does the phrase “totally foolproof” even need comment?

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