A significant proportion of the cases that we deal with involve clients who have downloaded some form of Peer-to-Peer (P2P) software.
Many of our client’s have downloaded programs like Limewire, Shareaza, eMule, Kazaa or others in order to download what they believed to be legal material e.g. movies, mp3s, legal adult pornography etc. only to receive a knock on the door by police due to illegal indecent images being downloaded by the P2P software without their knowledge.
Having represented a large number of clients in this position we would strongly advise everybody (with the exception of the most computer savvy individuals) against the use of such programs for the following reasons:
Much of the P2P activity is automatic and its use is unmonitored. Computers running this software will be busy exchanging files whenever the machine is turned on. Some of the P2P programs themselves contain “spyware” that allows the author of the program, and other network users, to see what you’re doing, where you’re going on the Internet, and even use your computer’s resources without your knowledge.
Once installed, these applications are hard to remove. In some cases a user has to know which files to remove, which registry entries to edit, and which configuration files need modification. Since the computers running the P2P programs are usually connected to a network, they can be used to spread malware and share private documents.
Various types of illegal files, including indecent images, can be downloaded and re-shared over these P2P networks by mistake. This is often due to the fact that many individuals with an interest in child pornography do use P2P networks to download and distribute their material. Often they do not label the files ‘child pornography’ or something similar for obvious reasons and the file extension may therefore appear innocent. However, when you then type in a search term in your P2P program the program may inadvertently downloaded these files that have been ‘mislabelled’ by the original maker of an indecent image. You may never realise this if you do not actually open that file which often happens due to the fact that each search using a P2P program often results in thousands of files being dumped onto your computer!
It is then the case that other of the users on the P2P network may access illegal images (either deliberately or inadvertently) via your computer which could mean the police and / or court suggesting that you are involved in not only downloading the images but distributing them also which makes the case much more serious!
Having regard to all of the above we would suggest that you give P2P programs a wide berth and stick to safer alternatives for downloading movies and songs like Netflix, Amazon, iTunes and Spotify!
However, if you have already fallen foul of a particular P2P program and are being investigated by the police in relation to illegal material being downloaded by such a program please contact us immediately for initial free and confidential advice.
You will always have a defence to a charge of making or downloading an indecent image if this was NOT a deliberate and intentional act done with the knowledge that this was likely to result in an indecent image being downloaded (see also defences to indecent images). Where you are disputing this we may well need to get you computer analysed by one of our computer experts who can prepare an expert report as to the circumstances any illegal material has found its way onto your computer, search terms used etc.
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