I don’t use online file-sharing networks to download copyrighted music and movies, not due to some position I take on the matter, but mostly because I’m paranoid about linking my computer to anything that can feasibly inject malicious software. So I didn’t hesitate to drop by the site Youhavedownloaded.com, because I knew they wouldn’t have any records of my Internet activity. Guess I took the Department of Homeland Security’s whole “Stop. Think. Connect.” cybersecurity campaign seriously.
But so seemingly powerful is the new site, I’m not providing a link to it here. You’ll have to decide whether to go there yourself. Once you do, the site will automatically check your IP address against a massive database of 50 million unique identities and spit out a list of files you may have downloaded from a file-sharing network, everything from “Pink Librarians” to “Maroon 5 Reinterprets the Christmas Classics.”
How does the site do this? Many file-trading networks are public, and the entertainment industry relies on this fact to collect information for randomly targeted lawsuits against people who are alleged to have illegally downloaded copyright-protected material. Youhavedownloaded.com is simply making it easier for the world to see this information.
As one would imagine, the site’s founders have already received panicked emails from Internet users. According to blogger Brian Krebs:
Krebs adds that there are significant limitations with the database. IP addresses can be dynamic and change over time, or an address at a home or business may cover the activity of multiple users. But searching “Family.Guy” out of curiosity turned up numerous IP addresses, as seen above. We already know that relying too heavily on IP addresses for copyright-infringement lawsuits can turn unwitting elderly women into civil defendants. It’s also important to point out that the site’s creators believe they can “see” only about 20 percent of the file-sharing activity online.
[Site founder Suren] Ter-Saakov said he’s received emails from users whose information was listed but who deny having downloaded any files (he also said people can have their information removed on request). ‘One guy claimed he downloaded stuff only because his grandmother was ill and he wanted to watch a ‘Harold & Kumar’ movie to cheer himself up,’ Ter-Saakov said. ‘Another kid wrote and asked to have his information removed because he was downloading porn and was afraid his parents would be able to see what kinds of movies he downloaded.’