December 22, 2011, 5:57 PM — TorrentFreak continues to mine news from the screaming irony beat as the Record Industry Association of America (RIAA)'s apologists spread out to spin the week-old news that RIAA members appear to have downloaded enough copyright-violating copies of popular TV shows to qualify for $9 million worth of fines.
On Saturday, TorrentFreak published the results of a little old-fashioned shoe-leather journalism: A group of its writers took blocks of IP addresses assigned to some of the more vocal, more extreme supporters of the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) and other efforts to punish illegal downloaders to a degree far out of proportion to their offense.
TorrentFreak writers compared the list to data collected by YouHaveDownloaded.com, which houses a database of more than 120,000 torrents and lists of the IP addresses that sent requests to down load them.
The six were linked to download requests for songs by Jay-Z, Kanye West and the first five seasons of "Dexter" as well as one episode of "Law and Order SVU."
As far as the RIAA was concerned, that should have been the end of the investigation. In the past, if you assume the RIAA's public statements and efforts to prosecute or sue accused downloaders reflects its actual opinion, an IP address and a person are the same thing.
IP addresses were the primary evidence RIAA used to pin accusations of digital piracy on a whole host of inappropriate targets, as well as those who actually were involved in illegal downloads (the number of which is so large RIAA could have simply grabbed anyone older than 14 at any local mall and had as good a chance at nabbing a pirate as it did trying to trace them through the Internet.
Until RIAA shifted its tactics to focus on "pirates" who post large volumes of illegal content, its main effort was to relentlessly pursue every individual "pirate" it could identify by IP address, even if the number of apparently downloads was in the single digits.
In one case it got a $1.5 million judgment against a Minnesota mother of four for allegedly downloading 24 songs.
A jury later lowered the amount to $54,000. However, under U.S. law, copyright owners can demand as much as $150,000 for each copy of a copyrighted work a pirate downloads.