IP Address Is Not Identity, NY Judge Rules
Created: 2012-05-03 15:34 EST
A guy is searching the internet. (ANNA MONACO/AFP/GettyImages)
by Victor Chen
In a landmark ruling, a New York judge has ruled that an IP address alone is not sufficient enough to definitively identify a person.
The decision comes as mass-BitTorrent lawsuits drag on throughout the country. Copyright holders have filed lawsuits against thousands of people, allegedly infringing on said copyrights, using an IP address to identify an account holder and therefore the suspected ‘pirate.’
However, as the ruling notes, there is no guarantee that the account holder is indeed the infringer.
US Magistrate Gary Brown was presiding over four cases with over eighty defendants, but noted a media outlet report, stating over “220,000 individuals have been sued since mid-2010 in mass BitTorrent lawsuits.” These cases were related to the distribution of pornographic films.
“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,” the Judge said.
“Thus, it is no more likely that the subscriber to an IP address carried out a particular computer function … than to say an individual who pays the telephone bill made a specific telephone call,” Judge Brown continued, noting the proliferation of computers in any given home connected to the internet.
Previous judges have stated similar cases, but none has given a response as detailed as Judge Brown’s.
He also noted that the allegations could lead to “drawing numerous innocent users into the litigation.”
The ruling is likely to end the mass-BitTorrent lawsuits in the Eastern District of New York, and will provide other judges presiding over similar cases across the country a detailed reference to work with.
The full ruling is here.