How to block P2P on ashared internet connection.
January 29, 2009 12:25 PM   Subscribe

How can I stop my roommates from using our shared internet connection to download or share copyrighted files?

I recently got a warning email from my ISP (Verizon) stating that someone used my account to downloaded a copyright protected television show using Bit Torrent.
I share my internet connection with 3 other persons. Can Verizon or I block all P2P traffic so there won't be any more problems?
posted by boby to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You can close ports and change your router password.

The first thing I would do is deliver an ultimatum that says "If you are planning on doing this, I don't want the connection to be in my name."

If they can't handle that, I'd cancel the account, or "un-share" the internet connection.
posted by orville sash at 12:27 PM on January 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

You are, like so many copyright holding companies, seeking to apply technological solutions to a sociological problem. In the end, the answer is, effectively, no. There are measures you can take, but they're necessarily draconian, and will likely interfere with your roommates' ability to take full advantage of the connectivity they're (also) paying for.

It's a messy situation, but the best I can suggest is to let a roommate take the responsibility. Cancel your internet connection and have a file-sharing roommate manage and sign for the account, or begin paying for it yourself and disallow others from using it.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 12:29 PM on January 29, 2009

I'd just tell them that this has to stop. Write out a letter addressed to each of them individually. Ask them to stop in the letter and indicate that you want a written pledge from each of them that they will no longer download TV shows or you will cut off access. You want a paper trail to each of them telling them to cease and desist from doing that.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:31 PM on January 29, 2009

Best answer: How about first letting your roommate know about the warning you received and seeing how they react?
posted by ejoey at 12:35 PM on January 29, 2009 [8 favorites]

The old fashioned solution: talk to them all and explain what's going on. Don't take any action before talking to your roommates. You may not have to resort to stealth tactics if they understand what's at stake. Also, it comes across as less weasely on your part than just taking some secret action to block channels first.
posted by cmgonzalez at 12:40 PM on January 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I've forwarded a copy of the letter to my roommates and requested that there be no more file sharing on the shared connection. All have agreed to stop. Getting my Verizon DSL switched to everybody's name involves canceling the current land line phone number (mine) and getting a new service under all our names. I still don't want my name being liable for their illegal activities. Was hoping for a hardware solution to block file sharing from Verizon. The CSR from Verizon didn't know what a torrent was and stated that it was my problem to stop my roommates from using this software.
posted by boby at 1:30 PM on January 29, 2009

I'd just tell them that this has to stop. Write out a letter addressed to each of them individually. Ask them to stop in the letter and indicate that you want a written pledge from each of them that they will no longer download TV shows or you will cut off access. You want a paper trail to each of them telling them to cease and desist from doing that.

this is not a great idea. I assure you that letters and written pledges will mean nothing and accomplish precisely the same. What you can do, from a technological standpoint, is block the port on your router that their bittorrent client is using. The problem is that different clients use different ports. Additionally, they all allow the user to specify which port they'd like to use, so that if your roommates want to change their port as a response, there's nothing you can do besides blocking them from internet access entirely.

the real question isn't technological, though, and you should be aware that, if this is an internet service you are all paying for equally, you will certainly create bad feelings between your roommates and yourself. What you received was a bog-standard warning that ISPs must legally send once they're contacted by a copyright holder. All it is saying is "Look. We got a letter saying someone at the ip address we've assigned to you downloaded this thingy here. We have to legally tell you that there could be consequences for you if you continue. Now, our asses are covered. Have a nice day." Your ISP will not do anything to you, but they may (one day, if the copyright holder subpoenas the information) provide your contact information along with the records of the data traffic in question that allegedly came from your ip. Everyone I know has received emails like this. Not one has ever been sued or had any punishment meted out against them by their ISP. Of course, that doesn't mean the copyright holders won't one day try to sue everybody into oblivion like back in the days of Napster.

Ultimately, it's your choice how to deal with this, but you may want to take the time to really ask yourself "Is it worth the hassle of annoying everybody I live with to secretly try to block their internet access over an ultimately meaningless form letter." I don't know what your relationship with your roommates is like, but in my experience acting like a nanny is never the right way to handle situations like these. If you don't want to get in trouble, you can do what others have suggested and have the bill for the internet put in one of your roommate's names. Outlandish as it may seem, you can also just talk to them and let them know about the email.

There are, after all, ways to keep the copyright holders from seeing you download.
posted by shmegegge at 1:38 PM on January 29, 2009

If you get sued, you need to be able to hold them liable. I was in the same situation, and I was worried about being held responsible for their actions -- so, I told my roommate that he either needs to transfer it to his name, or I'll draft up a legal document that basically says he is legally liable for any traffic that originates from and is sent to his computer via his specific network connection. The latter seemed unappealing, but the former did the job.
posted by spiderskull at 2:36 PM on January 29, 2009

Introduce them to the joys of usenet. Fast downloads with no uploading, so there is no copyright violation, and no chance of legal repercussions.

And since you're sharing an internet connection, they should be able to share one account with unlimited downloads.
posted by mad bomber what bombs at midnight at 2:36 PM on January 29, 2009

I would simply arrange with the roomate/roomates who want to torrent to cancel the account in your name and have them immediately open an account in their name or names, which you will share access to. If there are legal issues, it's (I would assume) not your responsibility, it's theirs, as the account holders. Then everyone can do what they like, assume risks for their own behaviour, and everyone's happy.

The hassle is a small price for peace of mind.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:48 PM on January 29, 2009

Response by poster: Verizon has dropped usenet.
posted by boby at 6:14 PM on January 29, 2009

stavros, in order to do that, he'd risk losing his current phone number.
posted by oaf at 7:28 AM on January 30, 2009

So? Better than worrying about getting sued by the fucking RIAA.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:11 PM on January 30, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for all the help. All parties involved agreed to no file sharing or P2P stuff. If anymore problems occur.....everybody will be on their own to get internet access.
posted by boby at 4:38 AM on January 31, 2009

Just a note to clear up my usenet suggestion: most isp's have stopped providing usenet, but that's ok because their service universally sucked. An account with a premium provider is the only way to go.
posted by mad bomber what bombs at midnight at 10:47 AM on February 1, 2009

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