This was a post from a popular P2P downloading site. Thought it was helpful. It was in response to a poster who received a copyright infringement letter from their ISP.
You have been flagged. What this means is that whatever policing body caught you in the act of infringing on a copyright now has your IP address and physical proof of some sort that you have attempted or have downloaded content that infringes on a copyright. That means you have 'stolen' someones intellectual property - and you could be in a lot of trouble. Being flagged means that you are probably on a list for them to monitor in the future - a special list where they keep track of people they have caught to see if they have repeat offenders - repeat offenders are the easiest to prosecute, because there is a mountain of evidence along with a clear intent to break the law and steal from the lawful owners of the intellectual property or digital content.
Now, you might think, "OH, I'll just stop torrenting for a while, I'll be fine." No, this is not correct - you have been marked. Any future activity will be monitored in the event that you download something illegally again. Weeks don't matter. a month or two might do it, but in the short term, there is no safe way for you to go P2P without the possibility of being caught.
Here's the thing - not all items you download are protected by the company that found you. Typically, copyright owners will hire a policing body to keep an eye on torrents for them, pursue those who violate the copyrights, and obtain fines for that downloading. If you download something they do not have the right to pursue you for, chances are they will ignore it - or pass it on to someone who does. Because of that, its a bit like russian roulette. You could take the chance that, perhaps, this body doesn't monitor music - but you might get flagged by another company, making you twice fucked.
You might turn to popular block lists like PG2, or the built in filters that many popular torrent apps come with. Don't bother - just as there are ways to hide your IP address, so too can those searching for you. There are always ways to monitor traffic, and if you are flagged, chances are that they will. It is generally acknowledged that PG2 is a placebo effect at best, and serves mostly to cut you off from a good percentage of the world, in the hopes for safety. This is a very comprehensive explanation why PG2 does not work. Please, take the time to read it.
Some users might tell you to use the TOR network to proxy your downloads, or try to hide your HTTP traffic. this is WRONG and BAD - the TOR network is NOT for torrenting traffic, nor does it support the torrent protocol. You cannot hide your traffic through TOR, so please do not try.
Also note that, depending on your locale, your ISP might work to monitor your traffic as well. This means that your ISP itself will watch your traffic - meaning that any and all content you download will be looked at - infinitely increasing the probability that you will be caught if you so much as think about piracy. Don't do it if your ISP is known to actively monitor and report infringers on their networks. Its not worth it.
Encryption also will NOT protect you - the way encryption works is that you encrypt the data stream on your end, and a client with that encryption key decrypts it on the other end. See the problem? The client on the other end - IE any other bittorrent user with that particular encryption enabled. Azureus uses the RC4 encryption, I think - meaning that if any of those policing bodies uses Azureus with the RC4 encryption enabled, they can see your traffic, what you are uploading, and will have proof that not only you are downloading illegally, but are trying to hide it - which doesn't help your case if it goes to court. Encryption can always be cracked, and if you are flagged, the chances of a policing body using their own resources to crack you increases with every illegal download you make.
Know this, and this is important: Repeated offenses will lead to prosecution. You cannot win against them - there are multiple accounts of people appealing copyright infringement cases, and the vast majority of them are lost. The political climate at the moment is not welcoming to pirates. You cannot win against them. They have more money, better lawyers, and more political clout than you can ever hope for. If you think you can outsmart them, you are wrong - they have more resources than some countries, and will wield it in excess to destroy you if you try to fight back. You cannot win against them. Anyone who gives you 'legal' advice on how to defeat the letters is full of it. Any good lawyer will tell you this - you cannot win against them. You can hope to reduce damages by pleading guilty, but even then, you will still get huge fines and possible jail time. It isn't worth it, and there is no chance of it ending well. YOU CANNOT WIN AGAINST THEM.
Do not reply to the letter. Ignore it, and begin doing any of the number of things included in this post. Replying to them is an admission of guilt, no matter what your excuse is. Unecrypted wireless networks, wayward children, and evil neighbors will not save you. Please refer to the Jammie Thomas case - no matter how poor or innocent you seem, they will not hesitate to destroy you.
Now, I've talked a lot about what you can't or shouldn't do - lets talk a bit about what you can.
Stop downloading - really, thats the best solution. Piracy evolved as a way for people to get to information that might not be available, outside of their financial range, or just as a way to test out the shiniest software, movies, and music. More and more, its adapting - software is cheaper, music is cheaper, movies are cheaper. Start weighing what you download - is that movie really worth it when you can see it in theaters for 10$? Try looking for dollar theaters that play releases weeks after the initial - no wait for downloads, no gettingcaught, and you see your movie for cheap. Music? Look for DRM-Free services that sell MP3's for cheap, or start buying CD"s when they go on sale at popular stores. Software? Well good luck with that - good software is always expensive, thats just something you need to deal with. Be a smart shopper and you'll be fine.
If you must download, try to stay away from 'shiny' torrents. THe newest movies, music, and games are also the most watched. Waiting a few weeks, or even a month, to download something you want could save you from an infringement letter. A bit of patience goes a long way - keep in mind, if its new, you aren't the only one looking at it - so are thousands upon thousands of others, and many of them are policing agencies looking to grab an infringer.
VPN's are beggining to become a popular source of downloading - using a distant proxy far, far away, where for a nominal price, your traffic gets encrypted and you can download safely. This might work - your ISP can still see your traffic, so if they are monitoring you, tough shit. if the VPN is in a country where torrenting is illegal, you might stand to be caught i the VPN gets taken down and gives up their logs. ANd its usually expensive, and the bandwidth depends on how fast their pipe is - usually, not very.
Seedboxes are currently the leader in anonymous torrenting. A distant server in a country that is more friendly towards torrenting will download for you - and you grab it off an FTP at blazing fast private speeds that no one but your ISp can monitor, and ftp traffic is rarely monitored for illegal content. They range from extremely expensive to rather cheap, and might be the solution that you are looking for if you absolutely must get that shiny new game hours after it comes out. Seedboxes are also a good way to get your upload ratio very high, if thats your goal.
In the end, there is no good way to not get caught for downloading. Good habits will save you, but inevitably, you will always run the risk of being caught. Smart downloading is your best bet, along with a good touch of common sense. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, and you will probably pay for it in spades. Be smart, be safe, and you'll likely spend years downloading (like myself) and never be caught.