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Monday, October 22, 2012

US Jury Won’t Accept IP Address as Proof of Infringement

An American jury is close to making a landmark decision as to whether an IP address is sufficient to identify a software pirate. Copyright infringement cases massively launched by the entertainment industry always depend on identifying the IP address of the devices. However, industry experts have been questioning for a while now whether the IP address can be enough for evidence, since it can only identify a broadband connection, not a particular individual.

An adult video label named Malibu Media has launched about 350 mass lawsuits in 2012. Majority of the cases were settled out of court as the label had an IP address of the alleged infringers and therefore could threaten them with settlement demands. However, in one of the lawsuits, 5 unnamed defendants have protested when their ISPs were demanded to reveal their identities. The alleged infringers accused the porn company of pursuing the cases to extort settlements.

The judge in the case explained that the defendants were arguing that BitTorrent didn’t actually work in the manner the porn label alleged. The judge agreed that a mere subscriber to an Internet service provider isn’t necessarily a copyright violator, because nowadays non-subscribers can make use of computer-based technology in order to access someone else’s IP address. As such, the judge has no reason to assume that a subscriber is the same person who was using peer-to-peer networks for downloading the alleged copyrighted content.

So, to decide who is right the judge needs a trial, which could set an important precedent. In case the jury agrees with the defendants that an IP address isn’t sufficient to identify an actual user, the courts of the United States won’t be allowed to request the IP addresses from the broadband providers. Moreover, the rights owners won’t be allowed to threaten Internet users to settle out of the copyright cases.

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