In a recent blog post (see here), I discussed a recent case in the State of Washington where the judge ruled that an IP address connected with infringing activity does not prove that an account holder is guilty of copyright infringement. The judge further ruled that evidence consisting only of an IP address is insufficient to plead a claim of copyright infringement.
I had stated that Lilenfeld PC would be keeping an eye on this issue for precedent in the Eleventh Circuit and it arose just a couple of weeks ago in Florida. Malibu Media, a pornography distributor that filed more than 1,000 suits in 2013 alone, asked the judge to issue a subpoena against a suspected pirate known only by an IP address. The user, “126.96.36.199,” was accused of sharing Malibu Media content without the company’s permission. In response to the judge inquiring how Malibu Media obtained the evidence against 188.8.131.52, the company explained that its software was able to determine that the downloader was in at a residential address and not using a WiFi hotspot. This meant that the infringer had to be guilty of downloading the content. However, the judge’s perspective was that even if the company could prove that a specific internet connection was used, it would not be definitive as to who was sitting at the keyboard. Dismissing the case, the judge wrote, “There is nothing that links the IP address location to the identity of the person actually downloading and viewing Plaintiff’s videos, and establishing whether that person lives in this district.”
While this case does not necessarily mean all IP address cases will be ruled similarly, it is certainly the latest in a trend shifting toward more stringent requirements in piracy cases. Regardless, even if their suits are ultimately dismissed, companies like Malibu Media are intimidating people into paying thousands of dollars, even if they’re innocent of copying or uploading movies illegally. A digital rights group called Electronic Frontier Foundation explained that these lawsuits often list embarrassing titles, which then become public record. Copies of the court filings are sent to the subscriber along with a demand for money, to which most people’s response is to pay, rather than be elect to pay named in a public lawsuit as a habitual user of hardcore porn.