Judge Rules IP Addresses Aren't Enough Evidence in Copyright Cases

This is an important decision in the history of copyright infringement cases

By on January 22nd, 2014 10:45 GMT

A key ruling came this week from a federal judge in Washington, who came to the conclusion that an IP address cannot be used as evidence of copyright infringement.

The decision was taken in the ongoing piracy lawsuit launched by the makers of movie Elf-Man, who sued hundreds of people for pirating their film using BitTorrent. The studio says that the IP address assigned to each individual was monitored sharing a pirated version of the movie, TorrentFreak reports.

The defendants either downloaded the movie themselves or allowed someone else to use their Internet connections to download the film.

Judge Robert Lasnik doesn’t agree, however, and he dismissed a motion filed on behalf of one of the defendants. “[The movie studio] has actually alleged no more than that the named defendants purchased Internet access and failed to ensure that others did not use that access to download copyrighted material,” the judge said.

Even the way the movie studio formulated the entire motion shows that there’s an issue accusing one person of copyright infringement when someone else could have been guilty of it.

“Simply identifying the account holder associated with an IP address tells us very little about who actually downloaded ‘Elf-Man’ using that IP address,” the judge believes.

All in all, the movie studio failed to make a clear claim for direct copyright infringement and while it is allowed to file an updated complaint, it is unlikely that it will find a way to formulate a valid claim given the circumstances.

This particular ruling is important because it gives a starting point to countless other cases where Internet users are accused of similar activities based on an IP address. It just proves something that’s been said time and time again – that just an IP address cannot and should not be allowed to be used as proof in copyright infringement cases since it’s not that difficult to get access to a certain computer.

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