Fed judge rules that a downloader's IP address is not proof of identity

In a surprisingly sane ruling Washington District Judge Robert Lasnik found that an IP address is not sufficient evidence of the identity of a copyright infringer. The case involved the B-movie Elf-Man, whose production company have gained notoriety through trollish attacks on people alleged to have downloaded the movie over bittorrent.

Ruling on a motion to dismiss filed on behalf of one of the defendants, Judge Lasnik notes that part (b) is not a valid claim.

“[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,” Lasnik states.

In other words, the complaint itself states that the account holder may not be the person who downloaded the movie, which isn’t enough to pursue the case.

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

“While it is possible that the subscriber is the one who participated in the BitTorrent swarm, it is also possible that a family member, guest, or freeloader engaged in the infringing conduct,” he adds.

As a result, the defendant’s motion to dismiss was granted because the movie studio failed to state a claim for direct copyright infringement, contributory infringement and indirect infringement. The copyright holder is allowed to file an updated complaint, but doubts that the movie studio will be able to make a valid claim.

Judge: IP-Address Does Not Prove Copyright Infringement [Ernesto/Torrentfreak]