Judge accuses prosecution of "fishing trips" by using IP address evidence to identify alleged file-sharers
A US judge has ruled that an IP address does not equate to identifying a person, in a legal ruling that could have far-reaching consequences.
In a case remarkably similar the the infamous ACS Law proceedings, which were thrown out of court in the UK earlier this year, porn company VPR Internationale was seeking the personal addresses of hundreds of alleged illegal file-sharers based on their IP addresses.
Armed with these details, lawyers have chased individuals for payment related to copyright material they are accused of downloading based only on their IP addresses.
The so-called mass lawsuits have been criticised on both sides of the Atlantic – indeed the judge called the exercises “fishing trips”.
The ruling in an Illinois court by Judge Harold Baker could put an end to such practices after he said IP addresses were an insufficient form of ID.
“The infringer might be the subscriber, someone in the subscriber’s household, a visitor with her laptop, a neighbour, or someone parked on the street at any given moment,” Judge Baker said.
The judge cited a recent case in which federal enforcers raided a property to arrest suspects accused of child pornography offences, only to discover that the real perpetrators had been piggy-backing on the network.
The ruling will give further ammunition to rights campaigners on both sides of the Atlantic who have argued that IP address identification – as outlined in the Digital Economy Act, and which could be used to cut off habitual downloaders – should not be used as an identification tool.