Saturday, 14 June 2014
RSA: How they caught the copyright pirate
Mybroadband ran a short but fascinating piece earlier this week considering how the first person convicted for peer-to-peer copyright piracy in SA was caught. For those interested in the technical side of the investigation, the piece is well worth a read. For background on the case and the basis for the conviction, see Dr. Caroline Ncube’s informative post on this blog here.
What I found particularly interesting is how the police couldn't simply rely on linking the IP address used to upload the film to the suspect. The IP address of the uploader of the film was easy to obtain given that the peer-to-peer network in question makes the IP addresses of uploaders publically available. The IP address was then linked to this particular suspect by serving a subpoena on the internet service provider responsible for that IP address in terms of section 205 of the Criminal Procedure Act. However, the police still had to prove that the suspect was the person who used the computer associated with that IP address at the time the film in question was uploaded (i.e. at the time the offence was committed). This was apparently achieved, at least in part, by obtaining affidavits from residents confirming that the suspect indeed used the computer during the relevant period.
To those SA lawyers who paid attention in Crim Proc class (I can’t imagine there are too many of you who read this blog), you’ll recall that section 205 empowers a judicial officer to require any person who is likely to have information relevant to the commission of an offence to appear before him/her. It has also been the subject of much controversy given its use to compel journalists to reveal their sources.
Moral of the story – if you’re a pirate, don’t trust your neighbours!