IP Harvesting: Filesharers Guilty Until Proven Innocent

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Research on the behavior of fake RIAA and MPAA trackers shows that these organizations have no proof that you actually tried to share infringing content. Even worse, it is extremely easy for someone to make it look like you shared an infringing file, even if you've never used a filesharing application.

fake bittorrent trackers mpaa riaaInspired by our previous posts on fake BitTorrent trackers, Ben Maurer decided to take a good look at the behavior of these trackers. For this research he used a BitTorrent client, and started to connect to fake torrents. The torrents were hosted by BayTSP, a company that collects IP addresses for several anti-piracy organizations.

The findings are quite shocking, but at the same time good news for filesharers who receive DMCA notices from their ISP. Ben found what some of us already expected. BayTSP only records who connects to the tracker, and has no proof that the alleged pirates actually tried to download infringing content. BayTSP merely collects IP addresses and forwards them to anti-piracy organizations. The anti-piracy then send a letter to your ISP, accusing you of sharing copyrighted material.

The really scary thing about this is that it is extremely easy for other people to make you receive a DMCA notice from your ISP, and possibly get disconnected if that happens more than once. As Ben points out, one way to make someone connect to a fake tracker (don’t try this at home) is by letting them click on a link like this:


Their IP will then be recorded by the fake tracker, and they will probably receive an infringement notice soon after that. Even if they’ve never heard of BitTorrent at all! Another way to set someone up is by using “peer exchange“. All you have to do is enter someone else’s address, and the fake tracker will record it.

All this is actually good news for people who receive these DMCA notices. As Ben points out in his post: “If your ISP forwards a DMCA notice from these guys, point them here. This research suggests that they have no evidence of wrong-doing. If ISPs learn that the folks sending them DMCA notices are not being completely honest, they may be willing to reconsider their position about how they respond to the notices.”


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