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An IP Address Does Not Identify a Person, Rules Judge

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.

  • boiler1990
    Thank you, sir, for being intelligent amid the recent chaos of these broad lawsuits *tips hat*
    Reply
  • mman74
    I would say there is more than reasonable doubt in this area. Certainly it would be abhorrent to put someone away for murder on such tenuous evidence, but it seems like just because we are talking about big studios strong arming - what could clearly be innocent people into – into coughing up massive fines, then reasonable doubt no longer applies. Well I say, No!
    Reply
  • Delengowski
    Wow, someone with a brain; there is still hope.
    Reply
  • blazorthon
    If someone has an open/unsecured network, should they be held more accountable than someone who has a password protected network, even if it's not AES encrypted, or if it is? These questions should be asked too.
    Reply
  • Devoteicon
    Now only if there were more people working in politics that had the level of intelligence that this judge has... image the possibilities.
    Reply
  • CaedenV
    ... things that will change with ipv6
    Reply
  • s3anister
    Seems legit.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • blazorthon
    blazorthonIf someone has an open/unsecured network, should they be held more accountable than someone who has a password protected network, even if it's not AES encrypted, or if it is? These questions should be asked too.
    To whoever it was who down-voted me, I ask you this: Do you really think that the RIAA or whoever won't try something along these lines?

    Their argument would be something like this: If someone leaves their WiFi network open to all because they don't secure it, then they are basically leaving the keys to a nuclear bomb with a map of where to find the bomb right on their front porch. The owners of a WiFi capable network should be held accountable for their heinous disregard for our property should some delinquent(s) use this insecure WiFi network that is basically just a silver platter.

    Do you really think that these @$$es won't try something like this? What if they do and we don't get lucky and have a reasonable judge at the head of the decision?
    Reply
  • computernerdforlife
    In the picture: Patchy the pirate totally ruined every part of Spongebob. IP address... Patchy? GTFO of here. That ruined the whole context of this article for me.

    As far as us long term Spongebob fans go, he SUCKS! If you don't believe me, believe Hasselhoff. :)
    Reply