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Man Busted for File-Sharing While House-Sitting

Here's something to keep in mind: never bring your laptop or desktop while house-sitting for a friend, especially if you're storing movies and music downloaded via file-sharing networks.

In December 2010, a man identified only as "Martin" was house-sitting for an unnamed friend. It was early in the morning when the doorbell began to ring. Draped in a blanket, he dragged himself through the house, half-asleep and sluggish from playing video games long into the early hours. His sleepy demeanor quickly subsided when he opened to door to see three men standing before him, one of them holding up a badge before his face.

Immediately he thought something happened to his friend.

But that wasn't the case. The police came knocking on the door due a warrant to seize all the computers in the house and arrest Martin's friend due to file sharing accusations. They weren't there for Martin, but in the rush to disconnect network cables, yank out hard drives and lug desktops out to the police van, they decided to take his laptop as well.

It was the case of being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

A few weeks after the police initially stormed his friend's house, Martin received a call from the local police, requiring that he come in for an interview. It was then they informed him that 200 illegally-obtained movies had been discovered on his personal rig, and that he was now being pursued for illegal file-sharing.

"It is now suspected that he downloaded and uploaded particular films,” explained Frederick Ingblad, the prosecutor handling the case. He acknowledged that the police were originally looking for Martin's friend, but as previously stated, Martin happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Given the charges he now faces, Martin seems unusually optimistic. "My friends think that I had bad luck," Martin said. "I hardly know anyone who does not share files, since you have always been able to get what you want. Still, I think the law is right."

Both Martin and his friend stand accused of copyright infringement. Their indictments are expected to arrive sometime this summer.

It's possible that the cases may be dismissed, as a judge previously ruled that an IP address does not equal to a human being. His ruling was based on a recent police raid where a man was falsely accused of downloading child porn, but in fact the culprit was actually a neighbor accessing his unsecured Wi-Fi home network. "The infringer might be the subscriber, someone in the subscriber’s household, a visitor with her laptop, a neighbor, or someone parked on the street at any given moment," the judge said.

Had the copyright holder been denied access to the friend's personal information based on IP address alone, they would have never seized Martin's notebook in the first place.

  • LORD_ORION
    Warrant wasn't for him or his property.

    So unless he committed a felony while the officers were there, his laptop should be protected by the 4th, regardless if it incriminates him.
    Reply
  • Kamab
    What a huge waste of time.

    Companies need to learn how to use the nature of file-sharing as a positive instead of going after random people who don't have money.

    Can anyone with some law background in this area tell me if its illegal to download a pirated movie (not upload). I BELIEVE the answer is no, it is not Illegal. And then, when does it become illegal? If you upload for some personal gain? If you use torrent software? If uploading the file hurts the copyright holder (I think this is a weak argument)? If your uploading it at no benefit to yourself, what exact law are you violating? And how are you infringing on the movie's copyrights?

    Just to be clear I think it's perfectly acceptable to go after sites that host downloads for pirated movies and use that traffic to generate revenue through fees or ads. But seriously, record labels and movie producers need to be welcomed to 2011: the future.
    Reply
  • Onion is right. This is a gigantic non-story that will be straightened out when he is arraigned.
    Reply
  • dalauder
    "If your uploading it at no benefit to yourself, what exact law are you violating? And how are you infringing on the movie's copyrights?"

    "No benefit to yourself"--It's not purely altruism because you're thoroughly intending for others to do the same illegal action for you.

    The law is distribution of copyrighted material without permission--there's kind of a big warning on that before every movie starts.

    If your friend stole a beer truck and you hop on the truck and start giving cases of beer away, I'm pretty sure you're breaking the law. The difference is that stealing and spreading physical stolen property is a lot more blatant and feels like more of a crime than stealing digital property.

    "2011: the future"--You're absolutely right. Distribution systems need to recognize the ease with which digital material can be spread and adopt a system more like Steam that doesn't charge you an arm and a leg for everything unless it's new and you really want it right then. Don't they realize how many awesome 5 year old movies I'd buy for $2 if it was available?

    Reply
  • kingnoobe
    I'm sick and tired of people using "physical" argument over a copy one. If I copy somebodys ford shelby (of course Ford would be pissed), do you really think he would care (other then now somebody has one like him). There is a huge difference, and it's freaking comparing apples to oranges. It's not the same in any way shape or form.

    Not to mention you are allowed to copy a movie if you own the movie, but since movies are usually protected were you can't just thrown them in a dvd drive and burn, most people simply download. Of course there are a lot of people just download to download instead of buying. There argument of "i wouldn't have bought it anyways, so they didn't lose any money". Has way way more merit then any type of physical theft comparison.

    Reply
  • Nakal
    Stealing 10s of thousands of dollars of movies/games etc isnt a crime? Not everyone working on a movie gets paid millions you know. Most are hard working people who operate cameras, perform maintenance, do graphics design, audio engineering, set design, etc... when you steal a movie you essentially rob from them just as much as those.. movie stars.

    With that said, I think the RIAA and MPAA are just as guilty of robbing artists blind too...
    Reply
  • thorkle
    =NakalStealing 10s of thousands of dollars of movies/games etc isnt a crime? Not everyone working on a movie gets paid millions you know. Most are hard working people who operate cameras, perform maintenance, do graphics design, audio engineering, set design, etc... when you steal a movie you essentially rob from them just as much as those.. movie stars.With that said, I think the RIAA and MPAA are just as guilty of robbing artists blind too...And who are getting profits from law suits and prosecutions? These people are unaffected in this. They are not being hurt by people stealing because most of the profit that goes to these people is often from customers going to see movies in theaters, or from other such day of release profit generating processes. The big wigs are the ones who often are making money off of the continued sales.
    Reply
  • virtualban
    Wish there was an easy solution to copyright protection, inspiring artists and producers to produce quality stuff, and preventing their greed from getting delirious.
    So far the Spain solution seems the fair enough. As mentioned in another Tom's' article, it is legal in Spain to share files as long as you don't make profit off it. That restricts the copyright holders attacking at best the torrent and download sites.
    Reply
  • enforcer22
    dalauderDon't they realize how many awesome 5 year old movies I'd buy for $2 if it was available?
    Im with you there. A steam like service for movies where i can download my movies where ever i want and drm free other then authentication to download more of what i buy. and i can watch them online or offline? the people who make movies would actually get a lot of money from me. Last time i paid cash for a movie was when VHS was still the main medium. I'm just not a fan of having to keep track of a bunch of box's. I would defiantly re buy all my movies again (which got stolen by a old roomate) which i could not get back unless i wanted to buy it again. A steam like system would avoid this situation all together. I would say i would have hundreds of movies in such a collection on such a service if it were available. Hell i would even buy new movies again.
    Reply
  • distanted
    kingnoobeI'm sick and tired of people using "physical" argument over a copy one.There is a huge difference, and it's freaking comparing apples to oranges. It's not the same in any way shape or form. There argument of "i wouldn't have bought it anyways, so they didn't lose any money". Has way way more merit then any type of physical theft comparison.There will always be those who can't be bothered to understand why just because the item is easily reproduced it isn't legal or right to do so. If you need more apples to wrap your mind around: how about sneaking into a theater without paying to watch a movie, or hiring someone to clean your house and not paying them? You haven't physically stolen anything, but you have received other people's services without the required compensation. And, that so-called argument that 'I wouldn't have bought the movie anyway' has absolutely zero merit. If you can't or won't pay the cost...don't watch it. It is that simple. If not paying was a valid option, then why should anyone pay? And if nobody pays, why have large crews working for months producing products just to give them away? Hope you like free-ware games and youtube videos.
    Reply