Illegal File Sharing – I have received a solicitor’s letter threatening legal action over illegal file sharing on an internet service I have been providing for my tenants. It seems this has occurred some months ago and as I have a high turnover of tenants in my multi-occupied property I would find it difficult to identify the culprit or trace them if they have left. What can I do?
From the research I have done into this, it seems that some hundreds of UK Internet users have been forced into shelling out £500 after being accused of illegally downloading copyright music, films, and more worryingly, pornography.
According to Which? around 50,000 such letters have been sent out by legal firms acting on behalf of copyright holders detailing dates and times the alleged offences occurred. Rights holders are identifying IP addresses of alleged offenders and going to court to force Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to hand over subscriber account details.
It seems these legal firms are acting ahead of the forthcoming Digital Economy Bill which will send out measures to curb illegal file sharing based on a “three strikes rule” where warning letters will be the first response.
Copyright law is a legal minefield especially in new media. Most solicitors don’t have the necessary expertise – specialist legal advice may be necessary, but as you can image, this can be very expense – that’s why most people have just paid up!
Of the cases that have so far come to court in America (a very similar legal system to our own) landlords have been acquitted of both contributory and vicarious copyright infringement in this situation. In both cases the landlord would have to have known or had reason to know the offence was being committed, to have had the ability or right to supervise the offender or to have profited from the offence.
This is obviously an area where landlords need to be extremely cautious in future. There are some basic rules you should follow to prevent this happening to you:
(1) Always have your tenant complete a comprehensive application form (http://tiny.cc/4s5ue) giving sufficient personal details to enable you to easily trace them when they leave you.
(2) Have a clause in your tenancy agreement to the effect that full liability is on the tenant for Internet use.
(3) Have your tenants apply for their own ISP accounts even if you provide the necessary Internet hardware.
©LandlordZONE All Rights Reserved – never rely totally on these standard answers which apply primarily to England and Wales. Before taking action or not, always do your own research and/or seek professional advice with the full facts of the case and all documents to hand.