Real news from the privacy world

Poland Police Confiscate Hundreds of Computers over Alleged Copyright Violation

As reported by TorrentFreak, Polish authorities have visited hundreds of homes early this week and confiscated as many computers in an alleged hard-line crackdown on movie piracy.

The film at the center of the controversy is the Polish comedy Screwed (Wkręceni), released in 2013. Although the film itself had its jolts of popularity, it is actually not the main cause of this catastrophe.

Europe has for a while now been under intense scrutiny and targeting by aggressive copyright owners. These people or companies scour the torrent networks hoping to find IP addresses that will lead them to downloaders willing to pay a settlement to avoid the courts.

For the most part, in Europe, these aggressive content owners are unsuccessful. However, not so in Poland.

Somehow, the police in Poland have gotten involved in what is normally a civil matter—copyright violation, court settlement, etc.

According to Polish news channel TVN24, the District Prosecutor’s Office in the northern Polish city of Szczecin said that, “We have established 2,600 downloads of the film. This applies to about 900 computers.” The channel also estimates that there are perhaps 40,000 people who have downloaded the film, and they could all be in danger of having their computers confiscated. Copyright holders will likely enlist further help from the local police once they ID remaining IP addresses they believe came into possession of the film copy via P2P service.

The reasoning for confiscating the computers is to protect evidence, so that hard drives wouldn’t get damaged or lost. However, there are three main criticisms of this move:

  • The methods of determining whether someone has download Screwed have not been independently scrutinized or verified.
  • To ID the computers, it is likely Polish ISPs (Internet Service Providers) gave up their customer information, once alleged infringing IP addresses were identified. This case once more proves that ISPs are tracking all of your Internet activity and no one can tell how your data is being used. It can be sold to third parties or it can be overtaken by hacker groups. That means your banking activity, private credentials and basically everything you do on the Internet might end up in a wrong hands.
  • The police claims that this is intended to crack down on those who didn’t just download the film, but instead on those who attempted to earn some money from its mass distribution (an unlikely scenario for most p2p downloaders).

In any case, it is understood that while downloading pirated content is a civil offence in Poland, uploading it can become a legal matter with heavy fines and jail time of up to 2 years.

Last year, authorities arrested 1000 people for downloading the same movie. Afterwards, prosecutors admitted [Polish] that they couldn’t independently verify the technical methods used to determine who the alleged pirates were.

How to protect oneself online

These types of situations happen more often than you think.

NordVPN does not endorse downloading and distributing any illegal content, however we do believe that everyone should have a right to remain private and secure on the Internet. Multiple cases in the past proved that even the biggest companies can be hacked and  data can be stolen from millions of customers. Using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) service would keep your information safe.   

When one uses a VPN, their IP address would lead to the virtual tunnel server location, not the IP address issued by ISP.

A VPN works by establishing a secure connection between a user’s computer and a server in a location of their choice. So, for example, a person in Poland could establish a secure connection to a server in America, or anywhere else, and have all his encrypted communications go through there. That way, anyone who is watching will see the Internet traffic is coming from that server in America, and not the real computer in Poland.

Even better, because the connection is secured with a double encryption, there’s no way to determine exactly what one types, browses and what is being downloaded. Beyond that, NordVPN doesn’t record logs, so it can’t be compelled to release any information about a user, since it doesn’t have any information to release.



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