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Ask Slashdot: P2P Liability On a Shared Connection? 346

An anonymous reader writes "I have a roommate that insists on using BitTorrent without taking any kind of precautions. He has an affinity for downloading material that is extremely popular and high-risk. He's received a warning from a well-known media giant in the past about his file sharing, but hasn't been sued. We've recently begun living in an apartment together (with one other person) and share our Internet connection and IP address. If his p2p activity leads to someone attempting to take legal action, could I be held liable? How would our accusers differentiate between our computers if we all share the same IP address? Would they just sue the lot of us?" Some lawyers would certainly like to get a look at everything on the other side of the connection. Has anyone out there faced legal problems as a result of someone else's use of your connection?
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Ask Slashdot: P2P Liability On a Shared Connection?

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  • by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Saturday September 10, 2011 @02:48PM (#37363480)
    Since you cant share ownership of an internet account, someone has to have their name on the paper work. If its you, then its your account and you are liable but also in a position to dictate change. If its him, then its his problem.
  • by Derekloffin ( 741455 ) on Saturday September 10, 2011 @02:49PM (#37363490)
    Even if you assume you are 100% legally in the clear, they can still sue you, get your ISP to cut you off, and make your life generally miserable. Sadly being in the right doesn't mean someone else can't accuse you of being in the legal wrong and thus forcing you to prove otherwise.
  • Tell your roommate (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gnasher719 ( 869701 ) on Saturday September 10, 2011 @02:54PM (#37363514)
    that if you receive any letters from any lawyers you will answer them truthfully. So if you get accused of illegal downloads, you would truthfully reply that you didn't do it, but your roommate.

    It seems your roommate insists, against your objections, to do things that are illegal, and bound to get you into expensive trouble, without taking any precautions. If the shit hits the fan, you have no obligation at all to support him in any way; your only responsibility is to get out of trouble yourself as cheaply as possible.
  • by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Saturday September 10, 2011 @03:17PM (#37363620)
    Actually, and technically, that's not correct. That is harassment, attempted coercion, interference with a legal contract, and a groundless, malicious suit, which are illegal in many if not most states. (It is even possible it falls under the category of a SLAPP suit, but that might be reaching a bit.)

    I'm not saying that they don't sometimes get away with it, but what they are actually doing in those situations is ILLEGAL.
  • by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Saturday September 10, 2011 @03:24PM (#37363664)
    That kind of attitude is EXACTLY what lets them get away with this intimidation and harassment bullshit.

    If you don't want to stand up for your own rights, at least get the hell out of the way and let other people do it.
  • by Billly Gates ( 198444 ) on Saturday September 10, 2011 @03:27PM (#37363692) Journal

    Kicking him out would be responsible. I do assume he owns the apartment and if not then leave and get a new place.

  • by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Saturday September 10, 2011 @03:33PM (#37363726)

    "It is reasonable that the owner of the internet connection had a duty of care to protect others from financial harm by his connection."

    I think you have a pretty funny definition of "reasonable". How much difficulty should one have to go through, for example, to prevent someone from stealing your car and running over his ex-wife? If you leave the keys in the car, are you liable? How about an alarm with a combination lock? Would you count that as reasonable?

    But wait... many people could not afford to have those put on their old cars, or know how to do it themselves. So is it actually reasonable?

    But you are saying that somebody should be compelled to use advanced encryption technology in order to block the remote possibility that a neighbor would "borrow" the equipment, and cause the loss of A FEW PENNIES of profit to some company in a far-off state???

    "Reasonable", my lily white ass.

  • by pz ( 113803 ) on Saturday September 10, 2011 @03:55PM (#37363882) Journal

    This is not a technical or legal question. It is a question about relationships. I'll take a stab, but, seriously, it does not belong on Slashdot. It belongs on some advice column.

    As I understand it, you have a roommate who partakes in risky behavior that you have requested he stop. He does not agree to your request. It seems therefore that you need a new roommate since you do not wish to expose yourself to any potential risk and -- this is the important part -- you and he do not have sufficiently compatible lifestyles. You need a new living situation, whether that be by leaving and finding a new apartment on your own, or kicking this fellow out.

    Any other discussions about relative liability or that include technological solutions, while potentially fascinating, are completely and utterly missing the point. This is not a technical or legal problem: it is a problem about relationships.

  • stop it/get out (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 10, 2011 @04:03PM (#37363926)

    a lot of people are taking the view that "hey it's his problem".

    have you considered the possibility that when the shit hits the fan, this roommate will turn around and say it is YOU who did it? can you prove it isn't you? because i guarantee you the other side won't care - as long as they get their pound of flesh. and even if you CAN prove it, it's gonna be a lot of pain and hassle. you'd better start documenting how/what/why it is that it's NOT you who's downloading it now, because you're gonna get caught in the trawler and trawling is damn well what the other side is doing, it's not precision strikes.

  • by westlake ( 615356 ) on Saturday September 10, 2011 @04:40PM (#37364098)

    Run a Tor exit node and open up a guest wireless connection that anyone can use.

    "Plausible deniability" doesn't have the same meaning to the middle aged, middle class, judge or juror as it does to the eternerally adolescent P2P geek.

    Often it translates simply as "Who does that jerk think he is kidding?"

    I live west of a state park that closes at sunset. To the east more greenspace. If late night downloads to this IP address are time-stamped the culprit almost certainly has to be me.

Loose bits sink chips.