Grandmother is falsely accused of file-sharing

A woman falsely accused of downloading copyrighted movies might’ve lost her Internet connection had she not taken her case to the media.

CNet reports — and was involved in — the story of Cathi “Cat” Paradiso, a 53-year-old artist and grandmother who lives in Pueblo, Colorado. Last month, Paradiso’s Internet service provider, Qwest, accused her multiple times of downloading movies and TV shows. While Paradiso scratched her head over the accusations — she wasn’t a fan of films like “Zombieland” — the copyright complaints piled up until Qwest said she had illegally downloaded 18 videos.

Paradiso insisted that she hadn’t downloaded those files, but to no avail. Eventually, Qwest suspended her connection, a devastating move because she works as a recruiter from home. That’s when she got in touch with CNet, and reporter Greg Sandoval started making inquiries. After digging a little deeper, Qwest realized Paradiso wasn’t at fault, and restored her Internet connection.

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The likely issue, of course, was an unsecured router. Paradiso said she tried locking her network down but acknowledged that she isn’t an expert. Given that Paradiso has little technology background and no children living at home, someone outside her home probably used the connection to download copyrighted files.

At that point, you could assign blame in all directions. Internet security firm BayTSP says it’s not responsible for falsely accusing Paradiso, as it’s her job to keep strangers off her network. So you could blame Paradiso, but is it her fault that someone else used her Internet connection to break the law? Some of the blame could also fall upon Qwest, who should’ve dug deeper in the first place, or even sent a technician to help secure her network.

Ultimately, though, this tale exposes a flaw in the “graduated response” system that rights holders are pushing, both in the United States and elsewhere: Internet subscribers accused of infringement are assumed guilty with no chance to defend themselves. Studios and ISPs agree that a review process is necessary, an unnamed movie industry attorney told CNet, and they want to improve their warning system so subscribes are better informed, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

The merits of kicking illegal file sharers off the Internet is up for debate, but we should all agree that if just one person is falsely accused of copyright infringement, the system is broken.

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