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 ( and in the 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.( )
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.( 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
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 ( 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 and other places too.

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