US Judge: An IP Address Alone Doesn’t Identify A Bit-Torrent Pirate

US Judge: An IP Address Alone Doesn’t Identify A Bit-Torrent Pirate

A judge in Florida has made an important ruling that will make it more difficult for copyright holders in the United States to successfully sue anyone they claim is a Bit-Torrent pirate.

The argument that a person can be positively identified from their internet connection’s IP address alone has been thrown out by district court judge Ursula Ungaro; this means in the future, media companies might have more trouble subpoenaing ISPs to reveal the personal details of alleged copyright infringers.

Standard procedure for copyright infringement lawsuits in the United States is for a media company to capture alleged pirates via IP address — usually by creating ‘honeypot’ torrent files and seeding them, recording all the IP addresses that connect to download that data. They then go to a judge to grant a subpoena that forces internet service providers (ISPs) to share any names, addresses and contact details associated with that IP — and that’s the justification they use to claim a particular individual downloaded a particular file.

The judge in question has questioned the legitimacy of this process, as detailed by TorrentFreak. According to the judge’s standards, there’s not enough concrete evidence that an IP address can be linked to the ISP’s account holder in this way — there’s too much potential for a third party to have used the internet connection, and other factors, such as the rights-holder’s use of imperfect geolocation processes, that mean the burden of proof just isn’t there.

Although there are probably plenty of other methods for copyright holders to use to identify and catch pirates, this seems at face value to be a useful ruling; it protects the public from possibly misdirected lawsuits, and strengthens the proof of any subsequent successful copyright infringement claim made by copyright owners. [TorrentFreak]