Judge rules IP address not necessarily evidence

A judge in the US has blocked a copyright holder from obtaining information about an alleged copyright infringer from an ISP.

District Court Judge Harold Baker has committed to what TorrentFreak describes as a “landmark ruling”. It could pave the way for similar actions in the huge wave of BitTorrent lawsuits in the US.

Copyright holders have sued well over 100,000 alleged file-sharers in the past year.

The crux is for rights holders to be able to get their hands on personal information from IP addresses which have been listed as downloading pirate material.

Successful lawsuits have meant the rights holders have been able to send a letter to the person attached to the IP address, demanding they pay anything from  a few hundred to a few thousand dollars to settle.

Rights holders have generally done rather well with that particular method.

But District Court Judge Harold Baker decided that enough was enough when examining the case between Canadian adult film company VPR Internationale  and Does 1-107.

He said this was because he did not believe that IP-addresses equalled a person. This, he said, was especially notable in ‘adult entertainment’ cases that could obstruct a ‘fair’ legal process.

To further his argument, he provided an example of a child pornography case where it was found that those arrested were actually innocent as criminals had piggybacked off their wireless connections.

Judge Baker said this showed that in some cases the IP address isn’t attached to a registered user, and could be anyone from the user’s friend, someone in their house or even a visitor with a laptop or someone on the street freeloading on an unsecured network.

He said there was not enough evidence in these cases to prove the subscriber was guilty. It becomes even more difficult with pornography as the whole matter could prove embarrassing.

Although TorrentFreak believes the ruling could pave the way for other judges to put their foot down, it remains to be seen if many adopt this particular logic.