Songs, movies and television shows ("entertainment") can be stored and transmitted over the Internet as digital files. Generally, online piracy is when Internet users download and/or share entertainment over the Internet without paying for it or without the permission of the artists and owners of the material. The legal claim for this type of behavior is usually expressed in terms of alleged "copyright infringement."
Q: Why did I get this notice of "alleged copyright infringement"?
First, understand that AT&T is not making this allegation. Rather, it is acting upon an allegation received by a representative of a studio or record company. You received a notice because someone using your AT&T Internet account is accused by the studio or record company of copyright infringement - or online piracy.
AT&T realizes that this activity may occur without the account owner's knowledge, or may be unintentional. Therefore, AT&T believes that the first step toward stopping online piracy and copyright infringement is the education of our customers, including bringing to their attention that not all content on the Internet is free or legal and furthermore that not all actions are completely anonymous. AT&T hopes that this notice is all that is needed to remedy the situation and stop the alleged activity - so that customers might avoid the unpleasant possibility of a lawsuit by a content owner.
Q: What is a peer-to-peer ("P2P") network?
In very basic terms, a P2P network is created when multiple users install software on their computers that allows each user to act as a 'server' and share information directly with other users, or peers, as part of a de-centralized network.
Q: Are P2P networks illegal?
No. P2P networks are not illegal and they have many legitimate uses. However, trading and disseminating copyrighted material over a P2P network without authorization or a legal right to do so is not a legitimate use.
Q: Why would I get sued if I paid for my P2P software (or I got it for free)?
P2P software is what provides Internet users with the ability to trade material, files and data over a P2P network. It does not mean that ALL information that is shared over the network is included for the price of the software. Illegal (or stolen) material traded over a P2P network, is still illegal.
Q: Where can I go to legally obtain this material?
Consumers finally have options that allow for the legal downloading of entertainment content - usually for a fee. For example, MusicNow, iTunes, Napster and Wal-Mart all offer music to download for a fee. Likewise, there are a number of legitimate sites for the purchase of video content such as CinemaNow, Vongo, ifilm, MovieLink, Movieflix and AtomFilms. Major television networks also provide free access to television shows via their Web sites.
Q: Are P2P networks the only place that copyright infringed material is available on the Internet?
No. While P2P networks are the mechanism by which a large majority of copyright infringed material is shared, it is not the only mechanism. There are a number of Web sites that allow users to listen, watch or download this type of material for free. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) offers the following guidance in identifying online piracy at Web sites that allow you to order physical DVDs or stream movies online:
Q: I've never downloaded or shared music/movies - why should I worry?
- the movie is still playing the theater;
- the price is too good to be true, often considerable lower than legitimate outlets;
- the site offers "unlimited" access to titles for a subscription fee;
- the difference in price is tied to poorer quality;
- poor use of grammar on the Web site (given the site is most likely off-shore and the text had to be translated);
- the use of region-free or multi-region DVD formats;
- the DVD is shipped in sleeves and not jeweled cases;
- there is no physical address listed on the Web site under "Contact Us";
- and there are disclaimers regarding no liability if the DVD is subject to seizure by US customs.
Unless you are positive that you are the only one who uses your Internet account, you should discuss this issue with everyone else who has access to your computer and/or your Internet account. Children and teens may be more knowledgeable than you think about the availability of this material and have been reported by the recording and motion picture industry as the largest demographic group associated with downloading or sharing songs and movies.
In some cases, account owners are being sued for the actions of their children, grandchildren, or others with access to their computer or Internet account. If your account is a business account, it is also important to make sure you know who has access to the account and how they are using it.
Finally, many accounts now use wireless modems that broadcast a signal allowing access to the Internet from multiple laptops and computers located in the household or business. If this wireless modem is not protected with an encryption key, others (neighbors or even passers-by) might be accessing your Internet connection remotely and without your knowledge. Any action they take once on the Internet would be attributed to your account.
Q: How can I check my computer or other computers that have access to my account for copyrighted material
The first step is to check to see if there are P2P applications resident on the computers in question. If you have no file sharing applications on your computer(s), the likelihood that you have copyrighted material is greatly minimized. Second, you can download ParentFILESCAN
, which is a simple program designed to help consumers generate a list of multi-media files (songs and movies) that could have potentially been obtained illegally. It is ultimately up to the account owner to make that determination.
Q: What should I do if I receive a complaint but I am certain that no one downloaded copyright infringed content using my account?
You should contact AT&T Internet Services at firstname.lastname@example.org. While AT&TIS makes every attempt to forward complaints to the proper parties, there is always the possibility an error was made in the process. While it is rare, it may also be possible that your account has been compromised by someone who is using it for malicious intent.
Q: How would anyone trace this activity to me?
Internet users can be identified on the Web by their numeric Internet protocol (IP) address. Millions of IP addresses are registered to different Internet Service Providers (ISPs) through a central registry. Every time a customer logs on to the Internet, the ISP first determines if the person is authorized to access the network (e.g. through User ID and password) and, if so, then assigns that customer an IP address for his/her connection.
The IP address serves a routine and legitimate function that is required to allow you to surf the web. However, record companies, movie studios, law enforcement agents and others can detect your IP address during certain interactions over the Internet. They can then check this IP registry to determine which ISP provided service to the Internet user in question.
Finally, they can file a legal action and seek a subpoena requiring the ISP - such as AT&T - to turn over the records identifying the name and location of the account owner who was assigned a particular IP address at a given date and time. However, the fact that you may have received a complaint or warning, in and of itself, does not mean that your records have been subpoenaed.
Unless ordered otherwise by a court, it is AT&T's practice to specifically notify customers if their records have been subpoenaed by a private party before turning over such records. While AT&T does not represent customers in legal actions, this notice allows the customer the chance to either challenge the identification of his/her account or take other action in regard to the subpoena.
Q: What information does AT&T Internet Services have about me and what will they release?
When AT&T is requested to identify a customer by his/her IP address, all AT&T can determine is that someone using that customer's account was logged on to the Internet at a particular date and time and was assigned a particular IP address. This process is necessary to authorize your access to the network. The account information that AT&T releases depends upon the demand in the subpoena. Generally, however, all that is released is the account holder's name, address, telephone number and email address.
Q: Does this mean that AT&T Internet Services (AT&TIS) is tracking my activity on the Internet?
Q: What is a "John Doe" lawsuit?
Owners of copyrighted materials have recently taken direct legal action against individuals suspected of copyright violations. Across the country, various owners are filing "John Doe" lawsuits, in which they allege that an unknown person, or persons, has committed copyright infringement by downloading (or uploading, sharing, etc.) materials over the Internet. The lawsuit is called a "John Doe" lawsuit because the plaintiffs do not know the names of the alleged infringers until they obtain the identities of the accused through the discovery process, which may include subpoenaing the records of ISPs.
Q: Is AT&T Internet Services taking sides by responding to these subpoenas?
AT&T Internet Services is not taking sides by responding to a subpoena, or by forwarding complaints. However, a subpoena is a legal document that requires AT&T to respond. Further, AT&T does not represent individual customers in court. Should AT&T forward an allegation of copyright infringement, it is doing so in an attempt to obtain voluntary compliance before the complaining party escalates the issue to a legal claim - i.e. lawsuit. AT&T believes that effort to notify and remedy the situation early is in the best interest of its customers.
Q: Can AT&T Internet Services terminate my account?
Yes. All Members agree to be bound by AT&T Internet Services' Terms of Service and Acceptable Use Policies. Those Terms and Policies prohibit use of the service for illegal purposes - including theft, copyright infringement and violation of intellectual property rights. AT&T Internet Services reserves the right to take action that it deems appropriate in order to enforce its policies - including suspension or termination of service.
Q: How will I know if my records have been subpoenaed?
As a courtesy to customers, it is AT&T's practice to notify customers in writing prior to release of such records in response to a civil subpoena. AT&T may provide such notification via email or via paper notice (United States Mail). However, since notification is a courtesy and not a legal requirement, failure to provide or receive notice does not affect any duty AT&T may have to respond to a subpoena.
Q: What do I do if I receive a notice that my records have been subpoenaed?
Read the notification carefully. Normally, the notice will include a copy of the subpoena itself and the notice or the subpoena (or both) will clearly identify the party or parties seeking your records. If you receive such a notice, it means that you are apparently the target of a lawsuit and the plaintiff is seeking your identity in order to proceed with claims against you. DO NOT call AT&T for legal advice. If you desire legal advice, you should contact an attorney of your choice.
Other DOs and DON'Ts:
- DO NOT call AT&T Internet Services' toll-free customer care number to ask if your records have been subpoenaed or to ask about a notice that you have received. Our service representatives will not have this information. A contact number will be provided on all notifications.
- DO read the notice and all attached documents, should you receive one, very carefully.
- DO NOT send an objection letter to AT&T. Simply calling or sending an objection to AT&T will not affect the subpoena or AT&T's response to the subpoena. If you seek to intervene, you must take action with the court on your own behalf and you should provide AT&T with a courtesy copy of any court motion or pleading that you file.
- DO contact an attorney of your choice for legal advice - DO NOT contact AT&T for legal advice.
- DO educate yourself and your kids about online piracy, copyright infringement and the consequences.