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I received an email from my ISP(Spectrum) saying that I received a copyright infringement notice. I read through the whole thing, but I don’t know what to do next. Am I in trouble, do I need to pay, or is it just a warning? This is my 1st notice.

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    If you are infringing and the notice says to stop it, what is preventing you from doing that?
    – jwh20
    Commented Jan 19, 2023 at 23:57
  • I just wanted to make sure, since I don't know if something is going to happen or if I might get a lawsuit or something. Commented Jan 20, 2023 at 0:13
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    What does the notice say? Commented Jan 20, 2023 at 12:35

3 Answers 3

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Your ISP may have notified you of an allegation of copyright infringement – a "DMCA take-down" notice. This means that entity X sent them a legal notice claiming that certain content in the ISP's domain infringes X's copyright. The ISP (who has the records of who has what) then tells you about this, and they take down the material. If you believe that X is mistaken (e.g. if you believe that you do have the right to distribute the material) you can file a counter-claim. The form of the counter-claim is described in 17 USC 512(g)(3).

DMCA takedown does two things. Primarily it gives the ISP the opportunity to not be sued for contributory infringement, by taking down allegedly contributing material, once notified. Second, it gives you an opportunity to dispute the claim. If you dispute the claim, the ISP informs X of the dispute, waits 10-14 days, and then if X doesn't inform then that they are suing you, then will restore the material.

If you have infringed copyright, you can be sued, no matter how you respond – DMCA only protects the ISP, not the infringer. Your ISP has nothing to do with paying anything to anyone; watch for a letter from X's attorney which demands payment, and discuss it with your lawyer.

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    But does that mean I will be sued, even if I didn't distribute anything. What about downloading? I originally thought that the notice was like a warning of some kind. It just telling me not to do it again. Commented Jan 20, 2023 at 0:52
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    Downloading is distribution. However, you don't give enough detail about the content of the notice to judge whether this is a DMCA takedown notice, or some "community standards" notice.
    – user6726
    Commented Jan 20, 2023 at 0:56
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    To add detail, this is the 1st notice. It was from torrenting a game. Is there no warning notice or anything? Like if I get caught once, boom, lawsuit. Or is it different? Commented Jan 20, 2023 at 1:37
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    Right, there's no requirement for a warning. Copyright infringement is against the law, this fact is published, if you break the law, you can get sued. Boom.
    – user6726
    Commented Jan 20, 2023 at 5:37
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    @HowieNation torrenting isn't just downloading, you are distributing the disputed material to other users while seeding
    – Affaltar
    Commented Jan 20, 2023 at 9:14
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Copyright owners monitor BitTorrent. They either seed small parts of their own content (e.g. 5% of the file), or they try to download their own content and see who seeds to them. They log the IP addresses of who tried to download, or who was seeding. (identifying seeders is much more potent, and Bittorrent clients seed by default). If you don't understand all that, that's where you went wrong.

There's been a lot of awkward precedent (I don't necessarily mean case law precedent) on what to do about this situation. The media industry doesn't want to be suing millions of Americans but does want piracy to stop. The ISPs don't want to narc out their own customers but don't want piracy happening either. One arrangement I commonly see is that the first time, the ISP refuses to tell the copyright holder who you are. Instead, they send you a sternly worded letter saying "make it stop, or else". If it continues, the gloves come off and they either hand over your identity, and/or cancel your internet service and ban you for awhile.

Read the letter carefully (hard do do in all the excitement, I know) and see what it actually says.

If the letter is saying "stop doing it or else", then stop doing it and do not answer the letter. Especially, do not contact the copyright holder. I wouldn't contact the ISP either. If you still are filled with the urge to do something, then contact a local attorney who will be your representative. Never seek advice from an opponent's attorney.

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  • So that means the 1st time I get the notice, it’s a warning? Commented Jan 20, 2023 at 13:13
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    @HowieNation The answer says already you have to "read the letter carefully ... and see what it actually says."
    – Brandin
    Commented Jan 20, 2023 at 13:52
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Three options

1 - It's a DMCA

Some copyright holder contacted your ISP with an IP (and most likely a time stamp) and said something like: "This connection at this time is uploading, offering, or downloading material we have copyrighted. Make it stop under DMCA." Of course much more elaborate. The ISP in turn looked up who had the IP at that time and sent you a letter "Hey, stop what you do there, or you'll be in trouble."

2 - It's also a Cease and Desist.

The copyright holder might have sent the ISP a letter worded differently. Instead of (just) pointing to the DMCA, they might have said "Make it stop under DMCA and tell them to keep it stopped, at which point we're even. If it persists or returns, we come back and demand the person's name to sue." In effect, they ask the ISP to deliver a Cease and Desist to the subscriber. That's not totally unheard of, as such can reduce the attorney costs for the copyright holder over many cases as the number of repeat infringers is lower.

3 - Are you the infringer or is someone using your IP?

There's a case where someone had an unsecured network and someone who was not the subscriber used the network to download and distribute stuff with a bit-torrent. The Bit-Torrent protocol is set up in a way that to download you have to upload parts you already have, so downloading with it automatically distributes the file.

In the case you are not using a torrent and are just the subscriber and are sued, there was a case where the subscriber was sued... and won, because the suing party could not prove that they were the infringing party. Yes, I am talking about Cobbler v Gonzales from the 9th Circuit (Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Thomas Gonzales, Case No. 17-35041 (9th Cir. Aug. 27, 2018)). Sometimes, letters from the ISPs are worded in such a way as to tell you "Goddangit, someone tried to subpoena your IP. Make your network secure and make sure that nobody uses your IP to infringe." However only if you are not the downloading/distributing party, you can point to this case.

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  • The case you link to and quote was not precisely about downloading, but about "downloading and distribution". As explained elsewhere, BitTorrent clients by default automatically distribute as well, whenever they download.
    – Brandin
    Commented Jan 20, 2023 at 12:57
  • @Brandin OP alleges not that they didn't distribute. Cobbler v Nevada indicates that the suing party needs to affirm that the sued person is the infringer with more than the IP address.
    – Trish
    Commented Jan 20, 2023 at 13:45
  • That's very hard to come to that conclusion. In the post itself, there is no mention of that. If one reads through all the comments of the current Answers, there is a mention of BitTorrent, though, which makes me think that the OP has perhaps unwittingly distributed a file, while downloading it. So yes, distribution may have occurred (and it's probably a good guess), but it's not alleged anywhere outright. More importantly, though, the case you linked to explicitly says "downloading and distribution", which in my opinion does not match your summary description "to download stuff."
    – Brandin
    Commented Jan 20, 2023 at 13:54
  • @Brandin clarified.
    – Trish
    Commented Jan 20, 2023 at 14:21
  • A DMCA notice is not "elaborate". It only needs to contain a very few statements, specified in the law. Info identifying the content, and its online address or other identifying info; a statement that the sender is the copyright holder or the holder's agent; a signature; contact info for the person filing the notice; "A statement that the complaining party has a good faith belief that use of the material in the manner complained of is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.": and that the info in the notice is accurate. See 17 USC 512 (c) (3) Commented Jan 21, 2023 at 22:42

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