A few weeks ago Comcast decided to settle one of the class action lawsuits brought against the ISP in response to its BitTorrent throttling actions. Affected users can now claim their part of the $16 million fund that was setup, but only if they state under penalty of perjury that BitTorrent was never used to download copyrighted content.
After more than two years, Comcast’s BitTorrent throttling practices and their implications for Net Neutrality are still making the headlines. The company still refuses to admit its wrongdoings and prefers to make its own rules for how the Internet should be regulated.
Their decision to prevent BitTorrent users from sharing content over their network has sparked the Net Neutrality debate, resulting in an FCC investigation and various lawsuits. One of these suits was settled last month.
Comcast agreed to put $16m into a fund to pay BitTorrent users that were affected by the ‘network management’ which made it impossible for them to share files after their downloads had completed.
Each of the affected users can now claim their $16 in damages, but those who do are required to state to the Court, under penalty of perjury, that their use of BitTorrent “was for lawful purpose consistent with applicable copyright and other laws.” This required statement came as an unpleasant surprise to many affected Comcast users.
“Am I supposed to be able to remember everything I downloaded during that period, and be cognizant of the copyright status of those items not only then, but now?” one worried Comcast user told TorrentFreak. “I certainly do not think that sixteen dollars is enough incentive to possibly suffer the penalties of committing unwitting federal perjury.”
Other Comcast users will have to agree with this assessment, simply because it is often not clear when one is violating copyright law. For example, there is still a large portion of BitTorrent users who think that downloading a TV-show that they could have watched for free on TV, is not a crime.
It wouldn’t surprise us if a large portion of the $16 million fund is left unclaimed because of this required statement, saving Comcast a significant amount of money.
That leads us to the question why was included in the first place. It somehow suggests that Comcast was attempting to stop copyright infringement with their throttling practices, aside from the network management purpose it served. Maybe they just want to hang on to their money.
Whatever the motivation to include this option, it is completely irrelevant to the case itself. Comcast has never used copyright infringement as a justification for stopping BitTorrent traffic, so the lawfulness of the traffic should not be an issue.