US judge says an IP address isn’t evidence enough to convict someone of downloading pirated content
The rules surrounding illegal downloading could be about to get a serious shake-up following a potential landmark ruling in the US.
A Florida federal court judge has rejected the claim that an IP address registered to an individual is enough to prove definitively that the individual is guilty of illegally downloading pirated movies.
Judge Ursula Ungaro of the District Court of the Southern District of Florida instead ruled that more details were needed to justify revealing the identity of a user suspected of the offence.
The case was brought by the creators of Manny, a documentary about Filipino boxing titan Manny Pacquiao, who wanted the granting of a subpoena to reveal the identity of a user that might have illegally downloaded the film using the Torrentfreak file sharing service.
The group, which has so far filed around 200 claims in the US so far since the film’s release in January, including 40 in Florida, wanted to use an IP address to locate the user, revealing that they had used copyright intelligence software Excipio and hired a third party IT expert to verify its findings.
However, Judge Ungaro ruled against this, asking Manny’s creators to prove that an IP address can pinpoint a specific individual, as well as to prove that geolocation tools are good enough to prove that the alleged defendant definitely even resides in the district of Florida.
“Specifically, there is nothing linking the IP address location to the identity of the person actually downloading and viewing the copyrighted material and nothing establishing that the person actually lives in this district,” she said.
“Even if this IP address is located within a residence, geolocation software cannot identify who have access to that residence’s computer and who would actually be using it to infringe Plaintiff’s copyright.”
Illegal filesharing has long been a problem for many content producers, which lose millions to pirated content each year. However, sites such as The Pirate Bay have been successful despite the supposed illegality of their actions, staying one step ahead of lawmakers thanks to a series of moves to remain online.
Last year, British Internet Service Providers (ISPs) including BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media announced that they would start sending warning letters to customers suspected of copyright infringement, as part of the long-overdue deal between copyright protection agencies and themselves.
However, they will not contain threats of legal action, and ISPs will not have to maintain an open database of the most dedicated pirates.
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