Atari accuses wrong people of copyright infringement

After several video game publishers publicly showed how they planned to combat software piracy, the lawsuits began to fly against suspected pirates.

But the problem with blindly targeting people based on an IP address means the copyright holders will occasionally accuse innocent Internet users of infringement.

Atari accused Gill and Ken Murdoch of pirating Race07, but the couple reportedly have never played a PC game.  Although the case was eventually dropped, Which? Computing believes there could be hundreds of British Internet users who are in a similar situation.

The Murdochs received a letter that said they could either pay £500 ($829) or could be taken to court over the matter.  According to Gill Murdoch, 54, both her and Ken, 66, have never played a PC game and didn’t know what peer-to-peer meant until they received the letter.


Atari relied on the anti-piracy firm Logistep to help combat piracy, with Logistep responsible for discovering the IP addresses of suspected software pirates.  Once the company has an IP address, it can then turn it over to Atari’s lawyers, who will apply for the necessary court order.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) also has accused innocent people of piracy, much to the delight of piracy supporters.  Most notably, the RIAA reportedly charged a dead man for sharing copyrighted pop music through a peer-to-peer network.

Many popular file sharing services, such as The Pirate Bay, are now using a tactic that involves random IP addresses being inserted into files to help confuse people tracking file sharing.  It’s plausible that the Murdochs were snagged after their IP address was wrongly used by one of these file sharing services.