When Copyright's Wrong

Blow for BitTorrent Lawsuits: New York Judge Rules an IP Address Is Not a Person

Just because you own an IP address doesn't mean you're the one who downloaded infringing material.
screen shot 2012 05 03 at 8 16 38 am Blow for BitTorrent Lawsuits: New York Judge Rules an IP Address Is Not a Person

Thumbs up to you too, Wired.

Earlier this week, New York Magistrate Judge Gary Brown issued a landmark ruling in one of the many mass-BitTorrent lawsuits for copyright infringement, calling the lawsuit a “waste of judicial resources” for insufficient evidence to identify copyright infringers, reports TorrentFreak.

The copyright holders were launching their claims with just an IP address. The copyright holders use that IP address ask the courts for a subpoena, which they then use to ask Internet service providers to hand over personal details about alleged offenders. 

But Judge Brown points out that the person listed as the account holder by an ISP isn’t typically the individual who downloaded the copyrighted material. “Or put differently; an IP-address is not a person,” says TorrentFreak.

Other judges have pursued similar arguments, but Judge Brown put a finer point on it:

“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.”

His findings could have a wide-ranging impact. Judge Brown urged other judges to dismiss similar cases in the future.

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