Using peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing like Limewire can be an extremely risky endeavor. There are the obvious risks of engaging in copyright infringement or becoming a victim of identity theft, but more and more people have complained that they have accidentally downloaded dangerous material – like child pornography – which was disguised as something more innocuous. This has caused a legal problem for 22-year-old Matthew White of California, who now faces a possible 20 years in prison for having images of child porn buried in his hard drive.
White claims that he tried to download a pornographic video featuring adults off of Limewire, but when he went to open the file, he found depictions of children. White said he immediately deleted the files, and even the FBI claims that the images were found so deep in his hard drive that he would be unable to access them. Regardless of White’s explanation, he still is likely to face time in prison. If he is convicted of the crime, he will also have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
A P2P watchdog group has attempted to mitigate the sharing of child pornography, accidental or otherwise, by creating a tool that should pop up a warning if a computer user searches terms that are often associated with illegal material. This is not a bulletproof solution to the problem, however, and computer users should take note that even a single, accidental download of child pornography can result in an arrest and serious criminal proceedings.
The FBI advises people to report this type of download to the authorities immediately. While this may result in a confiscation of the computer, most would argue that it’s a small price to pay if the alternative is being arrested and convicted of a serious sex crime.