Friday, August 29, 2014

An Open Letter: Is copyright trolling a thing in Finland now?

TL;DR; my response to the law firm representing Hustler

I got a nasty letter(in English here) in the mail. I was being demanded 600 euros for alleged copyright infringement. I operate a TOR exit node and an open wireless network. I'm also an active member of the Pirate Party and have been a municipal election candidate in Turku, Finland.

Someone had been downloading a torrent "This Ain't Game Of Thrones XXX" via TOR or my wireless network. The law firm Hedman Partners, who represent Hustler in Finland seemed to have made the assumption that it's ok to make ultimatums demanding money from someone based on the IP-address alone. By request, I translated my previous post to the best of my ability, so excuse any strange wording. I've organized my two blogs so that I post in English here and my other blog has it's contents in Finnish.

My thoughts are that it's appalling how low someone is willing to go hustling.(pun, get it?)

Your friendly neighbourhood torrorist replied as follows:

Dear lawyer of Hedman Partners 
Your company has sent me a letter stating that I should pay 600 euros for your company, or otherwise what would follow is something that in your letter was referred to as "further measures". Considering the overall tone of the letter and in the fact that it referred to Finnish law and coercive measures by the police, I regard your ultimatum as threatening. As I understood it, I was being demanded monetary compensation for an act I know for certain, I did not do and for which it would be impossible to to prove guilt. What I believe made this demand unlawful in was the fact that I have not committed the offence mentioned.
According to Finnish law, wrongfully forcing someone to dispose of their financial interests is known as blackmail. Threatening to make known one's porn watching habits unless someone coughs up money sounds to me like activities, for which you can get a sentence. I have heard of other cases where people have been threatened with further measures in order to intimidate innocents to part with their money. I am also concerned that other innocent citizens might not have as much time, energy, or wealth to fight back. Because your actions have the potential to cause so much damage to innocent bystanders, I find it morally questionable. I have made a police report.
I have been a TOR exit node operator for many years and I have also been sharing an open wireless network to my neighbours and the occasional passer by in my neighbourhood. In addition, I have occasionally experimented with operating other anonymizing networks. Many other people contribute to the sum of the traffic that goes through my network. Anyone who has access to the Internet can route traffic along the TOR network, and thus it can pass via my connection. Some of those people are journalists, human rights activists and ordinary citizens, on which some party, often their own state, applies censorship. Without the privacy provided by TOR they may lose their lives. 
Naturally with an open network, also the possibility of abuse arises, and in those cases a proper investigation into the matter must be done. A definition of proper investigation is not presuming guilt based on the IP-address alone and sending a bill and an ultimatum to the internet subscription holder. How many cafés have received letters from Hedman Partners? I'm guessing none. I wonder if any servers located in hosting facilities have got the same attention or is their campaign focused only on private people? As stated in your letter, according to Finnish law, ignorance does not release one from guilt even in copyright cases. Information about the services I've been maintaining have been accessible i.a. in my blog (http://semantics.sebastianmaki.fi/) and in the exonerator.torproject.org service. They can be found after a quick search by using my name as query terms or by checking my IP-address from exonerator service. I't will show that my server has been a TOR-exit node at the time of alleged offence. 
However, it is essential that IP-address alone does not identify the offender. A Florida district court judge has already come to this conclusion. An IP-address does not contain any kind of property that could identify the person downloading. You cannot even conclude whether the court has jurisdiction in the area where the downloading happens based on the IP-address alone.(https://torrentfreak.com/ip-address-not-person-140324/ )
In the US copyright trolling or "legal blackmail" (Extortion Letter Scheme) is already a well-known phenomenon. According to a quick Google search, there has already been a sentence in a slightly grosser case.(http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/granule/USCOURTS-mad-1_10-cv-12043/USCOURTS-mad-1_10-cv-12043-0) In similar cases some patent trolls have also been sentenced. Ylivieska district court in Finland has already outlined that the owner has no responsibility for the content of their wireless network traffic. 
How I see it, your actions are not in the best interest of your client, so I wonder what you are trying to achieve. Sure, the copyright holder has the right to seek compensation if the material has been distributed or used without permission, but it is not necessarily a rational action to take. Studies have shown that downloaders also buy copyrighted material. It would be rational of the copyright holders to regard downloading as free marketing that will increase sales. By stating this, my purpose is not to provide any excuses for I need none because of my innocence. I just question the rationality of your actions. 
In any case, I can not in good conscience pay the sum you demand. Although I do watch porn from free legal sites and now also from similar sites that accept Bitcoin, the only way I'm involved in this matter is that I provide services that other people may use. Satire porn isn't my cup of tea anyhow. 
I provide these services for humanitarian reasons and without any compensation. In the event that you're still thinking of trying to get me on accessory charges or something else like that, I'd like to remind you that the only thing you could hope to achieve is making it more difficult for innocent people to take care of their privacy, and so would jeopardize especially those people who are most in need of protection. It is known that well-intentioned restrictions will not hinder the actions of criminals, and I do question the credibility of arguments that imply that knowledge of restrictions could bring a sense of security. 
I am very familiar with IT, and I also know something about law. Therefore, I am very sure that you have no such evidence that would make it in your best interest to pursue this case in court.
However, if you believe that I have committed a crime, please do report a crime or otherwise leave me alone. I wish your customer good luck in experimenting with new types of avenues to profit from their content in a changing world. I just hope that this isn't one of those experiments. 
Waiting for your reply,
Sebastian Mäki
Vice-President,
Pirate Party of Finland's local domain in Southwest Finland
Voluntary TOR operator and the operator of the open HackLair network 
This is an open letter published in my blog (http://blogi.sebastianmaki.fi/) and sent to the email address of Hedman Partners lawyer.

Experiences from past as a TOR exit node operator here and here.(in Finnish)

EDIT: 3.9.2014 If for some reason all the free legal porn in the internet isn't enough for you, you can get more with bitcoin from iknowthatgirl.com and other places too.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

"However, it is essential that IP-address alone does identify the offender."

Shouldn't that be:
"However, it is essential that IP-address alone does not identify the offender."

Sebastian Mäki said...

Indeed, it should be. Thanks for noticing. Fixed now.

Anonymous said...

Good info on how to deal with patent trolls.
Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

I'm just curious. What happened after that. Did they sue you? Did they even answer your email?

Sebastian Mäki said...

The lawyer has been claiming that his been just performing his duties legally.

I've made a complaint to the finnish bar association but they have not reached their final judgement. I'm feeling optimistic though.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sebastian,

I live in Finland and have just found out that I should pay 1500 euros for allegedly downloading Da Vinci's Demons.

My wife got the same kind of letter from Joni Hautamäki, Hedman Partners.

They also provide a Nordea account, belonging to Hedman itself, we should pay the amount to before mid may.

We just use an Elisa connection with WPA Key.

What should we do in your opinion?

Sebastian Mäki said...

If it wasn't you who infringed on Hedman Partner's client's copyright and
it's plausible that it was someone else(a guest of your's etc.) You could
win in court although there are no guarantees. Ask EFF if they can help.
Turre Legal posted about your options in Finnish here:
http://www.turre.com/tekijanoikeuksien-laillista-valvontaa-vai-kiristysta/

I wish you the best of luck.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sebastian.

I live in Helsinki and I am now in the same kind of situation. So although this posts were made more than year ago, maybe you are still around and can point me out were to follow with it. I just got in my mail a letter from this Adultia Oy telling I should pay 600 euros until the end of December or I will be take into investigation an most probably to court. How to check if it really proceeds? Should I contact the police? Do you think is that some kind of trap, embezzlement scheme? Should I just pretend it never happened? I am quite scared cause that amount of money is almost my full month incoming. And I do not speak finnish so I coul not even understand the letter without help of a friend. Where can I get some support to go through this situation? Thanks in advance man! Peace!

Sebastian Mäki said...

I can't recommend paying. No guarantee they won't continue sending even more letters after deciding that your payment was some kind of admission of guilt. I'd say it's improbable that there are any real consequences if you just ignore the letter. That's just my opinion based on my own estimations on the profitability of their letter campaign and the time and resource costs of them having to go to court.

Check out http://kiristyskirje.fi
Google translate link here: https://translate.google.fi/translate?sl=fi&tl=en&js=y&prev=_t&hl=fi&ie=UTF-8&u=http%3A%2F%2Fkiristyskirje.fi&edit-text=&act=url

Anonymous said...

Hello,

We have just received exactly the same letter and as it is all in Finnish it is rather hard to understand. They claim the infringement was more than a year ago. I was wondering what we can do as we do not speak Finnish and also whether anybody has heard from them after the first letter, any follow up afterwards? I am really worried.
Thanks

Anonymous said...

I received one of these demands yesterday. I sent the following email to them, lets see how this goes.

Dear Hedman Partners,

Today I received from you what appears to be a demand for a large sum of money. I don’t speak Finnish but I gather you are under the mistaken impression that I have downloaded something from the internet called Black Sails. Your claim that I am personally responsible for this based solely on an IP address is something I must dispute. I have not done as you say I have and I feel quite shocked by your threats of escalating this if I do not pay your demands.

As an IT specialist I feel I must point out that I have in the past had an open wireless network, and I am also aware that even so-called secure wifi can be hacked. I have also used and experimented with TOR networking and as such other internet users data will have passed through and exited from my network. However the IP address for my home came to be flagged as downloading the alleged files it was not by my doing.

Please do not bother me again with this demand, like I said, the letter you sent in Finnish is beyond my understanding but it feels a lot like blackmail. I am no legal expert but as I have done nothing wrong I feel the law will be on my side if you try to take this further.

Mathan Rajendran said...

any update on this guys. Even I got a letter yesterday saying to pay 550€ but for last june month. I was playing around tor in my Raspberry PI and much more. But I am not sure what they are claiming for! what shall I do. I dont speak Finnish too. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Sebastian.
Me and friend got letters about Black Sails. Both have wi-fi, with simple passwords. So what is the latest status - ignoring, contacting lawyer, waiting for the second/third letter? Problem is that we didn't download this shit, but we asked our security friend and he mentioned that our passwords networkname-number are not secure....
So any last news? what should do normal dudes?

Uno Duo said...

Hello guys, today, I received such letter from Hedman Partners, Helsinki in Finnish, where they threat me to pay EUR 550 within weeks time, or else they will send my matter to the court or to the police. The letter is signed by Joni Hatanmaa Partner / Attorney-at-Law who says my IP was used to download a copyright movie of Scanbox Entertainment A/S last year December 2015.

Surprisingly, on the same day and time - as mentioned in the letter - I was in another city visiting my family friends to spend my holidays. I wonder how it is possible that I have been accused guilty and what should I do now? NOTE: I live in a student housing who provide the ISP service from Telia Sonera Finland Oy, which is included in the rent. Anyone out there, please help me!

Sebastian Mäki said...

The information the trolls have is not very reliable or accurate. I suggest ignoring the letter and if at some point they are stupid enough to sue you, go to court willingly. In Finland you have access to legal aid if you're not able to hire a lawyer by yourself. https://oikeus.fi/oikeusapu/en/index.html I recommend contacting Turre Legal. https://www.turre.com/ They specialize in these cases.

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