Joel Tenenbaum was accused of illegally downloading 30 songs. How might his action have been detected? Can anyone show a concrete method?


Using a honey pot or monitoring the peers list makes sense. However, in my view, honey pots only get peers' IPs. How can those companies identified downloaders in real world? As we know, some use ADSL and their IP is dynamic. According to this site, The RIAA names defendants based on ISP identification of the subscriber associated with an IP address, and as such do not know any additional information about a person before they sue. But how can they get the ISP's data?

  • Important detail: Tenenbaum was accused of "downloading and distributing 30 sound recordings". It's the distributing part that gives you the most trouble. If you only download, the damage you do is limited to the price of the content. If you share, that amount is multiplied by the estimated number of peers who have downloaded the content from you. Dec 14, 2015 at 16:09

3 Answers 3


As others mentioned, honeypots on p2p give the IP. Once they have the date, time and IP their lawyers send the ISP a letter asking for the subscriber information.

What the ISP does is their own business. They might decide that it's too costly to deal with these lawyer's letters and wait for legal action, or they might decide to forward you a cease and desist, or they might hand the information over. A letter from a lawyer is relatively cheap, can be issued as a form letter, and can really say anything plausibly legal and plausibly ethical.

Privacy laws can limit what information ISPs can give out and most ISPs retain the data for very short periods of time.


It depends. Often, the recording industry will monitor the peers list on torrent trackers for anyone downloading or seeding files that they deem to be protected under copyright. From the IP addresses they find, they'll try to attribute them to a real person, and proceed with legal action if possible.

  • A peer seems temporary occurs on the list, so it has low probability a downloader be detected many times. However, songs Joel Tenenbaum downloaded are not in one album, hence they seem not be downloaded in once.
    – Popopo
    Oct 26, 2012 at 12:41

There are companies that do nothing but sit on P2P services all the time monitoring and recording all Peers for files. Some of the more direct ones will even put falsified information out saying they are a peer for the file and watch for connections to their honey pot. Since all P2P systems require that users connect with other users, it isn't that hard to game the system, get connections to establish to a client that can log all the connection information.

As for getting the information from the ISP, while the ISP is protected as a common carrier from being responsible for people's actions over their network, they ARE required to cooperate in stopping any illegal activity. Basically if the ISP didn't provide the information, then they open themselves up to being sued for the information, so generally they provide the information when given reasonable evidence.

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