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An IP Address Does Not Identify a Person, Rules Judge

By - Source: TorrentFreak | B 62 comments

Another judge has ruled that you can't identify pirates based on IP addresses.

Another U.S. judge has ruled that an IP address does not identify copyright infringers, as the person paying for Internet access might not be the individual downloading illegally obtained content. The decision is one of many over the last year that are thwarting the plans of copyright holders who are looking for piracy-related financial gain in the American court system.

This particular case is unique because the judge actually goes into detail as to why content owners can't go after individuals using an IP address. The ruling was filed by Judge Gary Brown in the United States District Court of the Eastern District of New York in response to numerous lawsuits filed against John Does by adult film studios.

"The assumption that the person who pays for Internet access at a given location is the same individual who allegedly downloaded a single sexually explicit film is tenuous, and one that has grown more so over time," he writes. "An IP address provides only the location at which one of any number of computer devices may be deployed, much like a telephone number can be used for any number of telephones."

"Thus, it is no more likely that the subscriber to an IP address carried out a particular computer function – here the purported illegal downloading of a single pornographic film – than to say an individual who pays the telephone bill made a specific telephone call," he adds.

The ruling makes sense. For those who still use land-based phones, a single number can ring any number of phones plugged into wall-mounted jacks. The principle is somewhat the same when it comes with networking: you get one "phone number" that can be accessed by multiple "phones." The difference is that when wireless comes into play, additional devices outside the home can access that "number" if the network isn't secured.

"While a decade ago, home wireless networks were nearly non-existent, 61-percent of US homes now have wireless access. As a result, a single IP address usually supports multiple computer devices – which unlike traditional telephones can be operated simultaneously by different individuals," Judge Brown writes.

"Different family members, or even visitors, could have performed the alleged downloads," he adds. "Unless the wireless router has been appropriately secured (and in some cases, even if it has been secured), neighbors or passersby could access the Internet using the IP address assigned to a particular subscriber and download the plaintiff’s film."

To read the full document, TorrentFreak has it embedded here.

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Top Comments
  • 57 Hide
    boiler1990 , May 7, 2012 1:09 AM
    Thank you, sir, for being intelligent amid the recent chaos of these broad lawsuits *tips hat*
  • 38 Hide
    Devoteicon , May 7, 2012 1:25 AM
    Now only if there were more people working in politics that had the level of intelligence that this judge has... image the possibilities.
  • 38 Hide
    Delengowski , May 7, 2012 1:21 AM
    Wow, someone with a brain; there is still hope.
Other Comments
    Display all 62 comments.
  • 57 Hide
    boiler1990 , May 7, 2012 1:09 AM
    Thank you, sir, for being intelligent amid the recent chaos of these broad lawsuits *tips hat*
  • 38 Hide
    Delengowski , May 7, 2012 1:21 AM
    Wow, someone with a brain; there is still hope.
  • 38 Hide
    Devoteicon , May 7, 2012 1:25 AM
    Now only if there were more people working in politics that had the level of intelligence that this judge has... image the possibilities.
  • 25 Hide
    CaedenV , May 7, 2012 1:27 AM
    ... things that will change with ipv6
  • 2 Hide
    s3anister , May 7, 2012 1:35 AM
    Seems legit.
  • 9 Hide
    Anonymous , May 7, 2012 1:42 AM
    finally somebody woke up. piracy will be there no matter what. Instead of forcing people to those costly fines, they should be given some option to buy the original content first. These massive fines have started a thug business. A daylight robbery. What if some of these people doing piracy r paid by the companies themselves so that they can lure and trap other people into these web.
  • 24 Hide
    whysobluepandabear , May 7, 2012 2:05 AM
    JOSHSKORNin which case, you can still get internal IPs/MAC addresses from a home router if the courts have access to them. So if it's someone that passes by with a laptop, you can figure out who the culprit is not. I'm sure if the courts have sufficient access, they at least have the MAC address then, can figure out what kind of device it is, what OS License is attached to it and find the culprit that way.Then there's that case of, if a friend comes over and borrows your stuff. Well, I think the owner or the person that allowed the culprit to use their stuff should be held accountable to a certain degree, too, maybe limited to a small fine, starting out at $100, then increasing for each offense.

    Or, just spoof everything. If I'm downloading massive amounts of files, I'm definitely going to use a clean OS with no trace to me, with a spoofed MAC address - along with everything else. Then just leave the area. Good luck finding me.
  • 3 Hide
    atminside , May 7, 2012 2:08 AM
    good man
  • 8 Hide
    Marfig , May 7, 2012 2:34 AM
    DevoteiconNow only if there were more people working in politics that had the level of intelligence that this judge has... image the possibilities.


    Careful what you wish for.

    If an IP address doesn't identify a person, the obvious consequence is that currently there's no way to identify a person in the internet. Being this a medium through which crimes can be perpetrated, that may not sit well with an intelligent politician.
  • 3 Hide
    wopr11 , May 7, 2012 2:39 AM
    Shows you that not all judges are idiots, corrupt, or a corporation's puppet (like most in the "supreme" court are).
  • 2 Hide
    blazorthon , May 7, 2012 2:42 AM
    wopr11Shows you that not all judges are idiots, corrupt, or a corporation's puppet (like most in the "supreme" court are).


    Or, it shows us that someone wants us to think that not all judged are idiots, corrupt, or a corporation's puppet. This can be interpreted in many ways.
  • 16 Hide
    shafe88 , May 7, 2012 2:46 AM
    Instead of focusing too much on the people who do the downloading, why not go to the source and start focusing on the people who do the uploading. That's like putting a bucket under a leaky roof expecting it to stop.
  • -2 Hide
    nebun , May 7, 2012 2:48 AM
    who has a insecure network these days? this is the work of greedy lawyers
  • 5 Hide
    Anonymous , May 7, 2012 2:51 AM
    judge probley uses tpb
  • 0 Hide
    dg51 , May 7, 2012 2:53 AM
    MarfigCareful what you wish for.If an IP address doesn't identify a person, the obvious consequence is that currently there's no way to identify a person in the internet. Being this a medium through which crimes can be perpetrated, that may not sit well with an intelligent politician.


    Not entirely true. Sharing among the general public (over internet) is no different than sharing content with someone in a crowded hall. So, I think the difficulty in identifying the person (over internet or not) remains the same.
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