Commentary

False Piracy Accusations -- With An English Accent

Of all the business strategies to imitate, one would think the very last one on the list would be the RIAA's campaign of suing individual users for piracy.

The gaming industry disagrees. Game makers are suing alleged file-sharers in the U.K. -- and are bungling it as badly as the RIAA has botched its anti-piracy efforts in the U.S.

A middle-aged couple from Scotland, Gill and Ken Murdoch, reported they were accused of sharing Atari's Race07, according to the BBC. The couple reportedly told Which? Computing magazine that they received a letter demanding that they pay 500 pounds (around $800) or face a lawsuit. When the Murdochs, who have never played computer games, refused to pay, Atari dropped its demands.

The Murdochs aren't alone. Attorney Michael Coyle told the BBC that he is representing 70 people who were falsely accused of infringing games. Many say they have never played games, let alone stolen them.

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That piracy investigations end up snaring innocent people really shouldn't be a surprise. In the U.S., the RIAA has threatened around 30,000 people with lawsuits for file-sharing. Many have paid up to $5,000 or so to settle the case outside of court, but an untold number of those targeted haven't done anything wrong. In one well-publicized case, the RIAA sued a dead grandmother.

One reason is because investigatory techniques rely on making inferences about people based on activity that appears to be tied to their IP addresses. This strategy isn't foolproof under the best circumstances, but lately sites like Pirate Bay have made it even less reliable by inserting random IP addresses into its system, according to the BBC.

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