Seems Like Everyone’s Having Legal Trouble These Days

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Bwog received a tip from one unlucky student whose internet was shut down yesterday due to copyright infringement—which can mean anything from sharing or downloading stolen music or movies to illegally copying website content. The unfortunate tipster has not been sued by the RIAA (yet?), but according said tipster, CUIT has reportedly confirmed that one other student has been sued. 

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  1. hehe  

    I know the kid who got sued...

    good thing hes got connections

  2. Free Culture  

    He should talk to free Culture, or they should talk to him. They were recognized as a group to advocate for these kinds of issues.

  3. rob  

    if this ever happens to you (like it happened to me) all you need to do to get your internet back up is change your MAC address. i believe columbia can track your IP and your MAC, but they don't know which IP/MAC combo is used by which student (which is why they need you to call in to CUIT with your UNI when you get shut down). if you do a lot of illegal downloading you might want to change it beforehand so that you can always change it back to the default one later if anything happens.

    • Sorta....  

      Rob, that's not an entirely safe strategy, and when if change your MAC like that and then get caught, it can become a disciplinary issue more serious than a simple copyright warning.

      Here's why: There is one live jack per occupant in every dorm room. Each jack is connected to a dedicated port on a switch. For every dorm room, there's a database that says "this switch

  4. actually  

    This is the process:

    RIAA, MPAA, or whomever sends an email to CUIT with your MAC and the IP you had at the time.

    CUIT checks the traffic at that time, and if it matches what they're suspecting you of, it has your MAC captured and restricts your access until you have entered your UNI and password to self-uncapture. So you could just never enter your info and be safe, right? wrong. If you don't do it for a few days, they know you're clearly just trying to get around it, and they'll actually pattern-match your uni-logins from that MAC and toss you an email to let you know you've been flagged for a copyright violation. Self-uncapture or not, you're getting caught if you've logged into Columbia sites with any frequency.

    They make you fill out a form letter in which you basically say, "I, Joe Shmoe, have been a bad boy, have been suspected of sharing copyrighted material, and promise not to do it again. If I do it again, I recognize that the University will bitch-slap me." And you have to send a copy to CUIT and to the dean's office. It's degrading, but that's the end of it - unless Columbia gets a subpoena, in which case they'll serve up your name and critical info on a platter, and your ass gets sued.

    Bottom line - the tracking software for BitTorrent that the RIAA and company are using is much more sophisticated than people think it is. Your wired MAC ends up in a lot of headers and footers even if you're using a different MAC as an alias on the Columbia network. Best bet to not get caught? Use separate computers for school work in which you log in with your uni and for downloading. Or download/share with the understanding that you'll probably get caught sooner or later and that being a college student makes you an easy target for the RIAA.

    • ...  


      your MAC address never leaves the columbia network. (unless you have an application that specifically uses it as some kind of GUID as part of its protocol. [license servers/online games/usually some kind of drm related activity])

      MAC addresses live in local ethernet land and change the first time you cross a router.

      it's the combination of IP address and time that is used to uniquely identify you.

      ...and yeah it's clear CUIT has some netflow infrastructure, given that they run bandwidth quotas. when an IP address is leased out, it's very likely that they record the physical location and the time...

      • that's...  

        what i thought. then i saw the actual email from the folks who caught me to CUIT - they had my wired MAC and the IP address I was leasing, even though I was using my wireless nic when I was sharing. I'm a networks guy, so generally I like to think I know exactly where my private information is attached - and there's no other explanation but that my wired MAC is somehow attached to information I sent out in BitTorrent traffic. All of the rules of layering and all of your assumptions that go with that go out the window with the tracking software that these people are designing. Remember i2hub? The guy who wrote that software was 100% sure that the RIAA hadn't penetrated that traffic, and then he was completely shocked when he people started getting sued who had used i2hub. There are very few ways to really conceal your MAC from these folks, unless you're really good enough to make every instance of the mac on your computer change when you're downloading.

        Also, just to clarify, MAC addresses don't "change the first time you cross a router" - they don't change - it's a completely different layer of communication. But the DHCP logs that Columbia keeps associate your MAC to the IP address you had at a given time.

        • ...  

          hmm... are you sure that the mac address they provided actually matched yours?

          there's no way they should be able to get your mac address, unless:

          1) CUIT is more cooperative with them that they'd lead you to believe (ie: they contact CUIT for help and more information before putting together the formal letter.) [most likely]

          2) bittorrent puts mac addresses in the actual payload of their packets. [very unlikely]

          3) they're somehow able to get arp packets over the internet to a columbia host which is willing to respond /or they've discovered some other flaw in the columbia network that allows them to do arp type resolutions. [unlikely]

          and yeah, as far as mac addresses changing, if you look at it from the packet's perspective, they do. once you traverse a router, your return path is going to include that router, so if that packet needs to come flying back at any point in it's journey, it's going to assume the mac address of the first hop on the way back, most likely, the router it traversed on the way out.

  5. addendum  

    Also, this is not uncommon. A couple of these per day is pretty typical at CUIT. Being caught once does not translate to your being sued, though it's probably a good idea to stop once you've been caught once - the penalty for being caught twice is ugly and involves disciplinary hearings, let alone a greater probability that you'll be getting sued.

  6. Gagh!  

    Stupid me chose to use angle-brackets, so bwog ate my comment. #6 has got it right though. If they don't nail you by the obvious pattern whereby your old MAC conveniently disappears from your port despite having shown up every day all year, they'll get you on the UNI login history.

    And if they see you've been changing your MAC, you blow your one freebie. CUIT knows copyright violations happen, and there'll be no consequences if it's your first offense-- just fill out the form and get it over with. By changing your MAC instead, now you look malicious, and that's when you get into things like Dean's Discipline.

    Use separate computers, and don't ever plug the bootlegging one into your room's jack. There's plenty of wireless to be had.

  7. bandwidth quotas...  

    I get throttled about 36 minutes into watching something on Netflix's watch instantly-- apparently somehow I'm downloading while watching what I thought was streaming video. Does this happen to anyone else? Or perhaps know how to fix it?

  8. Anonymous

    This is how the process goes:

    1) RIAA mails CUIT the IP address and the timestamps of the violation. NO MAC ADDRESS INCLUDED. CUIT is the one that ties the IP to the MAC address. They also mail them what files were being uploaded/downloaded.

    2) CUIT matches the IP address, flows, to a potential MAC address.

    3) The MAC address is cross-referenced with your UNI. Basically, if you have logged into cubmail, you are in the system.

    4) If you've never logged into a CUIT system, you're pretty much OK.

    5) You can try downloading thru a NAT'd router in one of the many locations that has one. They'll be able to track it to the NAT'd router but they won't have any idea which one of the many users behind the router was actually downloading. They'll turn to the admin of that router(usually a Linksys) and that admin usually has no clue what to do. At that point, CUIT is at a dead end.

    6) Install VMWare and go into one of the many wireless nodes on campus and download from there. They'll track it down to the virtual MAC. Just keep changing it every use and you won't get tracked.

    CUIT tries its best to protect the students but when push comes to shove, they would have to cooperate when there is a possibility for suing the student. Other than that, they won't give up student information.

  9. muah!

    i got caught once but i never had to fill out a form...instead i got a very ominous warning: "next time...we tell your DEAN"

    oh my.

    but its very simple how not to get caught: they tend to track certain movies, music, etc thats most popular, and so if you're downloading something that's pretty old or has been out for a while, ur usually okay...i only got caught when i tried to dl atonement, and it was a pretty shitty copy too =(

    of course i still dont risk it. I now download at home, safe from the prying eyes of the college network.

  10. sooo..

    Is it safe to download from a secondary laptop on the campus wireless network? I use a different laptop for my room, though I've a router that I use to connect them both from my room at times.

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