Does Harper Collins Know What You’re Downloading?

We were looking through the Freakonomics blog this morning when we came across this post from Dec 18th, concerning Harper Collins contacting the ISPs of customers thought to be sharing of illegal copies of the book Freakonomics. The post had a link to a letter that a customer received after illegally downloading the book.

Cablevision does not seem to have disclosed the identity of the customer, but this does raise quite a few privacy concerns. Has anyone here received a letter like this one? Is this a better tactic than the ones the RIAA use? Same?

The Freakonomics blog seems to be in favor of the letter. “I am impressed that HarperCollins is devoting resources to a problem that, as time goes by, may become substantial,” wrote Stephen J. Dubner. Was this the correct way for Harper Collins to address the problem? How about Cablevision? It’s certainly eerie.—MEGHANN MARCO

This is What Happens If You Illegally Download “Freakonomics [Freakonomics Blog]

Full Letter Inside


Edit Your Comment

  1. medalian1 says:

    I’ve got one of those before, it’s a scare tactic.

  2. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    I got a letter many moons ago from Cablevision (I believe). It was from an attempted download of The Grudge on VCD. It was by way of a bittorrent, and only ran for a few minutes before I shut it down. I actually came across the letter last night while cleaning out my file cabinet.

  3. Sheik says:

    I got one of these from Lucas Arts for downloading a game of theirs from bittorrent. Nothing ever came of it. Scared me, no more downloading games for me.

  4. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    It just scared me into using PeerGuardian.

  5. LTS! says:

    It’s actually the exact method by which HarperCollins should address the issue. This has been known to happen many times for a great many circumstances.

    The ISP must act upon a complaint filed by a third party (in this case HarperCollins). Cablevision took the information, applied it to their logs, and noted who had the IP address and contacted the customer.

    This has happened to me before when they claimed that I had uploaded a file segment of a movie to UseNet. As it turns out my wife’s computer had been compromised and I shut down the offending processes.

    It’s simpler for a company to approach the problem this way unlike the RIAA who creates a spectacle and backlash of anti-RIAA sentiment due to their tactics.

    As has been said by some people already, the “scare” tactic works a great many times because most people don’t even realize that their actions are trackable on the Internet unless steps are taken which most consumers would be unaware of.

  6. Sheik says:

    I actually was using PeerGuardian at the time. That only blocks known IPs. Companies can just get a new IP range to use or use a proxy.

  7. I would think the Freakonomics guys would enjoy, or at least appreciate, the free-market dynamics taking place with illegal downloading and file-sharing right now. Content companies and providers are being forced to adapt to an entirely new way of doing business. They should love the meta-factor of being part of this economic shift taking place.

    Instead, they’re just hypocritical, duplicitous and greedy.

    Too bad.

  8. KevinQ says:

    Bravo to both HarperCollins and Cablevision. Most file sharers aren’t major international criminals, and treating them like they are (a la RIAA/MPAA) is just a way to get people to hate you. A simple notice saying “Hey, we think you’re breaking the law and we’d appreciate it if you’d stop” is much better than a flurry of subpoenas.


  9. adamondi says:

    I have gotten an email very similar to this from my ISP after downloading a TV show off of a Bittorrent site. Nothing has actually come of that either, even though the letter arrived several months ago.

  10. billhelm says:

    Even worse – I got one for a file I never hosted or downloaded onto my computer from Comcast a year or two ago.

    I don’t think the complaining party is given any identifying information.

  11. Sheik says:

    Jackie, the author probably has little or no say in whether the book is up for download or not. In all likelihood, if book publishing is anything like music publishing, then Harper Collins actually owns the text and gives him a cut of the royalties.