Every now and then, somebody is prosecuted for sharing culture in violation of the copyright monopoly. Here’s what you should know if you’re worried of that happening to you.
The most important thing to know is that it won’t happen to you. The copyright monopoly lobby likes to publicize every case to ridiculous proportions. Back in reality, outside of copyright monopoly math, more people get struck by lightning each year than get prosecuted for sharing culture.
Let’s take that again, because it is important: mathematically, you stand a higher risk of being struck by lightning than of being prosecuted for sharing culture. (Note that this does not apply to people who annoy Hollywood on purpose, which is a separate and much more serious crime.)
But on the astronomically odd risk that you should be
struck by lightning prosecuted for sharing culture, you need to know the next important thing: every conviction I’ve seen of copyright monopoly violation in direct sharing cases has been due to a confession.
Again: every conviction has relied on a confession.
In other words: do not confess to sharing culture in violation of the monopoly (in a prosecution situation, that is – everybody is assumed to be a good citizen and share; it’s nothing much to “confess to”, really).
You need to understand what the Police will tell you in order to try to get that confession. They’ll say that the copyright monopoly violation came from your IP address. They’ll say that they found the shared material on your hard drive.
None of that matters. Again: it doesn’t matter if they find something on your hard drive that matches your IP. The crime isn’t having the bits of data – the crime is transferring the bits of data. That distinction is crucial. Actually, it’s not even enough to transfer the data: you need to have transferred it in a way that violates the monopoly, and far from all copies do that.
The police need to show that you, personally, transferred this bitpattern in a way that violated the copyright monopoly. That’s practically impossible to prove. Having the bitpattern on your hard drive is not a crime in itself, except in North Korea.
Preferably, you shouldn’t say anything at all in an interrogation situation. If you feel you have to say something, ask the Police if there’s any coffee and cookies.
But if you’re still worried, there are two easy things you can do. Karma points for both of them.
The first thing to do is to encrypt your whole hard drive, which is a good thing to do anyway. For Windows and Mac, you can use TrueCrypt to do this. You’ll get a password prompt as the computer boots, and after that, the encryption is transparent. For GNU/Linux, you get the option of encrypting the whole drive when you install the operating system; I’m sure there are ways of adding encryption afterwards. On Android, you can encrypt the whole drive, too: it’s part of the screen lock menus somewhere.
As the police will turn off your computer the first thing they do in a raid to prevent you from erasing evidence, they will also lock themselves out of said evidence on power-down. They’ll lie to you afterwards and claim that they found X, Y, and Z on your hard drives, again hoping for a confession. They didn’t. You can just smile at them and say nothing.
You don’t have to justify having an encrypted hard drive to the Police or anybody. This is tremendously important. If you’re asked why it’s encrypted, you don’t have to feel threatened in the slightest; it is entirely within your rights to protect your data from intruders, legal or otherwise. This is true in all countries that I know of except for North Korea, Iran, and the United Kingdom. You can smile and shut up or just shrug your shoulders and say “because I felt like it”. Or, for that matter, change the subject and ask if there’s any more coffee.
The second thing to do is to have an open wireless network. This is also a matter of being a good neighbor. I have two wi-fi networks, one closed and one open (most modern routers allow this). Both egress on the same IP address toward the net, so if somebody is sharing culture from this IP address, it could be me or any of my 50-or-so neighbors in range. And with an encrypted hard drive, there’s nothing even suggesting it was me in an astronomically unlikely raid scenario.
Of course, sharing wireless bandwidth with my neighbors when they may need it is also a matter of practicing what I preach; sharing is caring.
This latest defense – the open wireless defense proved so successful in Denmark that the copyright monopoly lobby even stopped suing people sharing culture, because they couldn’t get any convictions. They’re now trying other avenues. (This was regardless of whether there even was an open network, as civil lawsuits don’t confiscate equipment in a police raid.)
So in summary, an encrypted hard drive is little extra work but will mean that the confidences placed in you are safe in a raid scenario, and an open wireless network will negate any connection between you and your IP address. Anybody accusing you of sharing culture in violation of the monopolies won’t be able to get a shred of evidence of it, even with a full-scale police raid.
(In reality, outside of copyright math, the encrypted hard drive is much more likely to protect your data in a case of burglary than a police raid – and the open wireless is much more likely to benefit you with better neighbor relations.)
TL;DR: TrueCrypt or LUKS. Open wireless. STFU.