Have you received a letter or email from the RIAA? Unsecured access points could cause this…

A friend of our was near tears recently when they received the following email:

From: abuse@charter.net <abuse@charter.net>
Subject: [xxxxxxxx xxxxxxx] Notice of Copyright Infringement
To: user@someaddy.com
Date: Saturday, July 22, 2011, 5:51 PM
Dear Charter Internet Subscriber:

Charter Communications (“Charter”) has been notified by a copyright owner, or its authorized agent, that your Internet account may have been involved in the exchange of unauthorized copies of copyrighted material (e.g., music, movies, or software).  We are enclosing a copy of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notice that Charter received from the copyright holder which includes the specific allegation.

Under the DMCA, copyright owners have the right to notify Charter’s register agent if they believe that a Charter customer has infringed on their work(s).  When Charter receives a complaint notice from a copyright owner, Charter will notify the identifiable customer of the alleged infringement by providing them a copy of the submitted DMCA notice.  As required by law, Charter may determine that the customer is a repeat copyright infringer and reserves the right to suspend or terminate the accounts of repeat copyright infringers.

It is possible that this activity has occurred without your permission or knowledge by an unauthorized user, a minor who may not fully understand the copyright laws, or even as a result of a computer virus.  However, as the named subscriber on the account, you may be held responsible for any misuse of your account.  Please be aware that using Charter’s service to engage in any form of copyright infringement is expressly prohibited by Charter’s Acceptable Use Policy and that repeat copyright infringement, or violations of any other Charter policy, may result in the suspension or termination of your service.  You may view Charter’s rules and policies, including Charter’s Acceptable Use Policy, under the policies section of charter.com.

We ask that you take immediate action to stop the exchange of any infringing material. For additional information regarding copyright infringement and for a list of frequently asked questions, please visit charter.com/dmca.

If you have questions about this letter, you may contact us at 1-866-229-7286.  Representatives will be available to take your call Monday through Friday 8am – 8pm, Saturday and Sunday 8am – 5pm (CST).


Charter Communications Security Resolution Team

— The following material was provided to us as evidence —

Following that was a list of music that was downloaded…   And below that was the following attachment:

I am contacting you on behalf of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) — the trade association whose member music companies create, manufacture, and distribute approximately 85% of all legitimate music sold in the United States.
If you are an Internet Service Provider (ISP), you have received this letter because we have identified a user on your network reproducing or distributing an unauthorized copy of a copyrighted sound recording.  This letter constitutes notice to you that this user may be liable for infringing activity occurring on your network.

If you are an Internet subscriber (user), you have received this letter because your Internet account was used to illegally copy and/or distribute copyrighted music over the Internet through a peer to peer application.

Distributing copyrighted works on a peer to peer system is a public activity visible by other users on that network, including the RIAA.  An historic 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision affirmed that uploading and downloading copyrighted works without the copyright owner’s permission is clearly illegal.  You may be liable for the illegal activity occurring on your computer.

To avoid legal consequences, a user should immediately delete and disable access to the unauthorized music on your computer.  Learn how at the “About Music Copyright Notices” section of www.riaa.com.  That section also contains practical information about:

– How you were identified and why illegal downloading is not anonymous
– What next steps to take
– Where to get legal music online

We encourage Internet subscribers to visit the website www.musicunited.org, which contains valuable information about what is legal and what is not when it comes to copying music.  It also links to some of the more popular online music services where fans can go to listen to and/or purchase their favorite songs.

We have attached below the details of the illegal file-sharing, including the time, date, and a sampling of the music shared.  We assert that the information in this notice is accurate, based upon the data available to us.  We have a good faith belief that this activity is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.  Under penalty of perjury, we submit that the RIAA is authorized to act on behalf of its member companies in matters involving the infringement of their sound recordings, including enforcing their copyrights and common law rights on the Internet.  This letter does not constitute a waiver of any of our member’s rights, and all such rights are expressly reserved.

Thank you in advance for your cooperation.  If you have any questions, please visit the “About Music Copyright Notices” section of www.riaa.com.

Jeremy Landis
Recording Industry Association of America
1025 F Street, NW, 10th Floor


This type of letter is not uncommon at all!

We have been contacted by friends and clients over the past several years who received similar letters and emails. They get much worse. One client was told that they owed thousands of dollars for a list of songs they had supposedly illegally downloaded (60 year olds normally don’t download boy band songs, but none-the-less)…

In just about ever case, a quick assessment of the situation revealed what was really going on. An unsecured access point in the home/business was being used by persons unknown to do this dirty deed.

If you get a letter or email that says similar to the above, here is what I would suggest:

  • Make sure you have no illegal / unlicensed music or movies on your systems. If particular works are noted as “evidence”, search your computers for those and make sure you OWN the original hard copy of that song or movie.
  • Check for any unsecured access points. Sometimes a person will buy an inexpensive router/access point, never intending on using the access point, however that AP may have come enabled and unprotected by default, which was the norm up until a couple years ago. Disable it, or secure it!
  • Check computers for any P2P software which could be installed, perhaps by rogue apps, intentionally by children, or if you happened to purchase a used computer, it may have come loaded on it. Uninstall it. Kazaa and Limewire were installed automatically with some software bundles and though they did not automatically start downloading songs, if ever your computers were searched, it may come off looking as if you at one time may have intended to or actually engaged in illegal file share.  Bit Torrent apps need to go away too.  Yes, I realize there are legitimate uses for them, but try explaining that to the media cops.
  • Check your machines to insure they are not exploited by various malware / root kits (it may be worth hiring a professional to do this)… We have seen machines exploited and then used as file sharing hubs, where the unknowing owner has 1000s of songs they never downloaded sitting on their computer.
  • Talk to your children and explain that saving $1.00 for a music download could end up costing much more!
  • If you are downloading or have been downloading music that you have not been paying for, then chances are, you know it is wrong. Nothing is free in this world. You don’t get the latest Gaga tunes for free, no matter what the magic application you downloaded says.

If your letter was the warning as you saw above, you likely need do anything other than what I have outlined. If you get a more threatening letter, then seeking legal advice may be the next step for you. You will need to look for someone who knows copyright law.

Should you find yourself in this situation and just want to talk to someone in the Upstate or Greenville area about what to do, or need help in securing your network or computers, please do not hesitate to call us at 864.990.4748 or email info@homelandsecureit.com

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