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Despite never having played a game before, senior citizens Gill and Ken Murdoch found themselves the subject of legal threats from Atari for allegedly sharing the game "Race07".  (Source: Atari)
Recent suits illustrate alarming trend in the gaming industry

While few argue that creative artists deserve fair financial compensation for their work, equally few agree with the RIAA's unprofitable campaign of aggressive litigation.  The organization, which aims to stamp out music piracy in America has sued for as much as $9,250 per pirated song, and has even sued people with no internet access. 

The RIAA once sued an elderly woman for allegedly downloading gangster rap, and was unwilling to drop the case for months despite discovering she was dead and had no computer in the house.  They also sued a twelve year old girl, forcing her parents to pay two thousand dollars in damages.

Now copyright owners in the gaming industry may be resorting to similar thuggish tactics to fight growing software piracy.  Gill and Ken Murdoch, senior citizens from Scotland, aged 54 and 66 respectively, received alarming legal threats warning them of an impending lawsuit if they did not £500 ($815 USD) compensation to Atari.  They were accused of stealing the game Race07.

Atari has apparently hired anti-piracy firm Logistep to identify IP addresses of people downloading and sharing games online.  Despite the fact that IP addresses can easily change and be altered and are notoriously poor evidence, Atari is charging head on into a large campaign of legal threats.  The company has already taken aim at Britain's estimated 6 million pirates by sending out threatening letters, based on its partner's surveillance of Gnutella, BitTorrent, and eDonkey.

However, like the RIAA, its results seem to be lacking any kind of evidence or consistency.  For example, the Murdochs hardly used a computer and never had gamed in their life.  They describe, ”We do not have, and have never had, any computer game or sharing software. We did not even know what 'peer to peer' was until we received the letter."

The case was dropped after a protest by the shocked Murdochs and mounting negative publicity.  Atari's law firm Davenport Lyons, which it has hired to handle prosecution, would not comment on the reason why the case was dropped.

Michael Coyle, an intellectual property solicitor with law firm Lawdit, says people should hardly be surprised at the massive amounts of wrongful accusations.  IP addresses, he says, are a horrible way to track down real file sharers.  He states, "The IP address alone doesn't tell you anything. Piracy is only established beyond doubt if the hard-drive is examined."

Mr. Coyle is helping the wrongfully accused fight back.  He has 70 cases currently and has spoken to "hundreds" of others.  He states, "Some of them are senior citizens who don't know what a game is, let alone the software that allows them to be shared."

While prosecutors argue that network theft is no excuse for piracy originating at the IP, he aptly argues that there's no law requiring personal networks to be secure, leading to a sizable inconsistency.  He states, "There is no section of the Copyright Act which makes you secure your network although it is commonsense to do so."

However, as he notes, some users, like the elderly are unaware of the proper procedures to protect a home network, or the risks involved.

In Britain, though the game publishers are starting to have success with their litigation, despite the negative press, though.  Topware Interactive managed to win £16,000 (approximately $26,000 USD) in damages from Londoner Isabella Barwinska who shared a copy of the game Dream Pinball 3D.

In Britain copyright law is enforced by the Copyright, Design and Patents Act of 1988, which is much like our Digital Millennium Copyright Act here in the U.S.

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RE: since when is 54 a senior citizen?
By JasonMick on 10/31/2008 9:25:15 AM , Rating: 4
I think the fact that Atari dropped the complaint seems to vindicate the couple's claims.

True, at 54, you see some computer savvy (my dad's 56 and he's pretty computer savvy, uses ebay all the time), but her husband is 66. Not to sound stereotyping, but most 66 year olds don't game (and if they do its a wii, not pirate games).

Obviously the suit was entirely crap, and they appear not to be alone, by the lawyers comments.

By Dreifort on 10/31/2008 10:23:33 AM , Rating: 2
The Wii has a pirate game?!? ooouuuuu scurvvvvvyyy!

RE: since when is 54 a senior citizen?
By kilkennycat on 10/31/2008 12:52:52 PM , Rating: 3
Hmm.... I have a 65-year-old friend who has just bought the PC version of Fallout3 and thoroughly enjoys a huge collection of the latest PC RPGs and shooters, both SP and MP (all legally purchased). He has been playing action-type computer games since the the arrival of the Commodore Amiga circa 1985. Helps keep reaction-times in prime condition and Altzheimer's at bay. Seems as if you need to tweak your stereotype impressions? Remember that there is a complete generation of computer players now advancing into retirement. Do you really think that those people are going to be happy as couch-potatoes watching mindless_TV and old movie re-runs? Not on your life.

By chick0n on 10/31/2008 1:21:52 PM , Rating: 2
He is not saying ALL, but MOST people over the age of 50 doesn't play games much. if any at all.

I father used to play some arcade when he was in his 30s, but thats about it and he hasn't play any games since 1987.

but this is just stupid, sometimes I have to download cd-crack in order to play my "legitimate" game that I brought from stores. For example, BioShock, damn stupid SecurRom is so buggy and crash. CD crack in, BOOM, the game works fine no crashing whatsoever.

and Atari suing people? they should go file for bankruptcy. most of their games were shit, not even worth a penny.

RE: since when is 54 a senior citizen?
By das mod on 10/31/2008 2:19:34 PM , Rating: 4
your dad's husband is 66 ??

wow, im truly shocked

RE: since when is 54 a senior citizen?
By ZmaxDP on 10/31/2008 3:31:48 PM , Rating: 2
Reading comprehension 101:

If I'm in the middle of saying something (parenthesis can be used to insert a separate thought or comment relevant to the original sentence) but want to add a point that doesn't directly fit into the sentence I might use parenthesis to do so.

The 54 year old woman's husband is 66, nothing to do with his 56 year old father.


By ggordonliddy on 10/31/2008 7:19:43 PM , Rating: 2
The way you wrote it was kind of confusing.

By Alexstarfire on 11/1/2008 8:19:30 AM , Rating: 4
Actually, you are supposed to use commas to separate it from the rest of a sentence. It's called an aside. It's a relevant comment, but can be taken out without affecting the sentence.

"If they're going to pirate somebody, we want it to be us rather than somebody else." -- Microsoft Business Group President Jeff Raikes

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