Tenants getting DMCA notices under my (landlord's) name.
December 28, 2007 8:50 AM   Subscribe

What are my options as a landlord for a tenant who got a DMCA notice for illegal downloading under my internet connection and my name in CA?

A bit of background first - I own and live in a house in California and rent rooms out to a few other college students. Everything is in my name, including all the utilities and the internet through Comcast. There's a protected Wi-Fi network set up, and most of the occupants of the house are pretty tech-savvy.

So today I received an email from Comcast talking about the illegal download of a film that I most definitely did not download. After some talking, I figured out who in my house was seen watching that movie on a computer last week, and therefore who most likely downloaded it. So what do I do? As the internet and notice is in my name, and not the name of the person who it should be, this all seems a little wrong. I guess my actual question is twofold:

1) In any situation where a DMCA notice is received by person A, but the activity was actually the doing of person B, what can person A do?

2) When person A is a homeowner, what rights does person A have to take action against person B, who seemingly broke the law?

Thanks for the help all.
posted by razorfrog to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It will probably not be pursued at all, but I would suggest you either:

A:) Install and run peer guardian constantly on a computer to prevent your house from being noticed when people do stupid stuff like this, it should be noted this will bone your network speed, but it will make you pretty much invisible to most malware too.

B:) Change the network password and tell everyone but him, when he asks tell him about the notice and ask him what he is going to do about it.

Here is a hint, B is probably the less cool but more responsible answer.

Also you are liable here, but like I said nothing will come of this most likely.
posted by BobbyDigital at 9:05 AM on December 28, 2007

Why not:

1. Tell the housemates what happened and let them know that downloading things illegally isn't part of the deal (and if they want to do that, they're welcome to get their own internet connections). Don't accuse a certain person, just let everyone know about the letter.

2. Take some sort of effort to prevent it in the future (like BobbyDigital's suggestion, or perhaps you could just flat-out block the bittorrent ports -- yes, yes, there legitimate uses, but it's generally used for illegal purposes). IANAL, but it sounds to me like this would help you in court if it goes further.

I wouldn't fret too much about this being pursued. I got one, stopped downloading stuff from home, and never saw anything further.
posted by kdar at 9:23 AM on December 28, 2007

"or perhaps you could just flat-out block the bittorrent ports"

Impossible. Most (if not all) BT clients can be configured to use random ports or specific ports. And how do we know this isn't eDonkey, DC or other server-based P2P silliness?
posted by tdischino at 10:36 AM on December 28, 2007


To comcast- mention that someone in the house was running an unprotected wireless access point. Say you have since disabled the open wireless network. (they can't and wont be able to prove otherwise, the DMCA takedown notices are auto generated by bots trauling for files being shared with names they are looking for, and just kick out an IP address. The whole process is automated and flawed, and they get tons of 'false' positives).

To renter / tenant- state that downloading of pirated films / media will not be tolerated and they will not be given wireless access if this happens again. Since there is no way to prove that the IP isn't you, you have to ban it from your entire network. You can look into peer guardian or other software (such as a linksys wrt54g with dd-wrt) to either block the traffic or the information preventing you from being reported.

Another option is getting something like comcast business, which can give you 5 static ips public, which you can then assign to each tenant (easier if it is hard wired to each unit / bed room). That way you can document who has what IP, so if this happens again you can say "per their rental agreement, is assigned to Bob" etc. If they want wireless, it is their responsibility to set it up and secure it themselves.
posted by mrzarquon at 10:43 AM on December 28, 2007

To echo what's already been said, check out Peer Guardian and urge your tenants to install it on their computers.

Have you spoken to Comcast's Abuse department? I'm not suggesting it purely to make a case that you weren't the one that P2P's in the house; they'll laugh at you, as it's under your name and you are responsible for managing and being the traffic cop of your own connection. But if you call them they may offer suggestions on how to prevent them from using P2P at least to some extent.

Also, if you haven't already, change the password for administrator access to the router so they can't fix things like port forwarding.
posted by booticon at 11:15 AM on December 28, 2007

Consider ditching cable and getting a provider like DSL Extreme (not to plug 'em, but I do use one of their residential packages with eight static IPs, which is a great help for distributing said IPs throughout the home to each tenant) that *does* block outgoing port 25 (mail) by default, and *does not* monitor you for "illegal" downloading. More importantly, a dsl connection is going to have much less bandwidth for uploading, making it less likely your tenants would be able to successfully share music and movies back out (which is, I believe, the thing people keep getting sued over -- not the downloading of the file, but the uploading of it back up to other people.)

Then proceed with the lecture to the tenants anyway, as if your provider was going to keep checking.

Of course, the easier answer is "stop giving them wireless access", and let 'em get their own dsl on their own phone lines.
posted by davejay at 11:45 AM on December 28, 2007

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