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Pirates allegedly tracked at RIAA and the Department of Homeland Security

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On the the RIAA’s FAQ page, the organization states that despite the consequences, “downloading one song may not feel that serious of a crime.” Perhaps that’s why even RIAA employees don’t feel guilty downloading an album or TV series on work hours.

File-sharing news site TorrentFreak has once again used YouHaveDownloaded, a service designed to let you spy on your friends’ torrenting habits, to allegedly expose media pirates inside some of the Stop Online Piracy Act’s (SOPA) greatest supporters: the RIAA and the Department of Homeland Security.

For TorrentFreak, the discovery is poetic justice.

“The RIAA has lobbied hard for a nationwide piracy monitoring system much like YouHaveDownloaded,” wrote TorrentFreak’s editor Ernesto.

Although the RIAA’s goal is to remove file sharing from the Internet forever, employees apparently feel differently. They’ve downloaded Jay-Z and Kanye West albums, along with handy audio cracks to open them. Even if those were downloaded for so-called research, it’s hard to make that same argument for their torrents of Dexter and Law & Order.

Meanwhile, at the Department of Homeland Security, employees have been busy with their own peer-to-peer file sharing. TorrentFreak said they found over 900 IP addresses linked with downloaded files but did not include screenshots for evidence.

Last week, TorrentFreak found pirates within Fox, Sony, and Universal Studios. Screenshots prove the downloads absolutely, but as with the RIAA screens, TorrentFreak has obscured the last three digits of each IP address. Their point isn’t to get people fired; it’s to show how pervasive piracy is.

“By highlighting the above our intention is not to get anyone into trouble, and for that reason we masked out the end of the IP addresses to avoid a witch hunt,” Ernesto wrote. “An IP address is not a person, IP addresses can be shared among many people, and anyone can be behind a keyboard at any given time.” .

However, since the discovery software developers and users alike have pointed out flaws in the YouHaveDownloaded service. For one thing, it doesn’t account for dynamic IP addresses, which are shared between multiple users. If you’re part of one, YouHaveDownloaded might mistake your pirating with your neighbor's—or the person next to you at Starbucks.

“We don't bother ourselves to separate dynamic IPs,” wrote YouHaveDownloaded developer Suren Ter Saakov in a top Facebook comment on the site. “The site is just for show. However we have time-stamps. 3.3.3.3 might be a dynamic IP - however it belonged to a certain person at 12:12am 12/12/2011.”

While this could let your average Joe accused of piracy off the hook, it won’t work for the RIAA. TorrentFreak cites the American Registry for Internet Numbers’ record of the RIAA’s IP addresses, which are exclusive to the company.

“After carefully checking all the IP-addresses of the RIAA, we found 6 unique addresses from where copyrighted material was shared,” Ernesto wrote.

Photo by Alaskan Dude