You may have heard that the US Supreme Court recently refused to
hear the appeal of a college student who was ordered to pay $675K
in damages for illegally downloading and redistributing thousands
of songs through BitTorrent.
It is seemingly another one of a very large number of cases in
the US in which copyright owners are going after individuals for
copyright infringement for the illegal downloading of films and
music via BitTorrent. However, a recent decision in New York has
thrown into doubt the validity of identifying the individual
responsible for an alleged infringement through discovering their
The owners of a large number of porn films were seeking to sue a
whole host of users who they allege had been illegally downloading
their porn films. The owners had obtained the IP addresses of a
number of users from their use of the file-sharing protocol,
BitTorrent, in downloading the porn films.
To find out the actual identities of the users, the owners asked
the Court to force the ISPs to reveal the names and addresses of
each of the subscribers to which the IP addresses related.
The users went on the attack and won.
The judge, rightly in our view, agreed with the users that just
because an IP address is in one person's name, it does not mean
that that person was the one who illegally downloaded the porn.
As the judge said, an IP address does not necessarily identify a
person and so you can't be sure that the person who pays for a
service has necessarily infringed copyright.
For example, in an office or at home, where there is a WiFi
connection, only one IP address will be allocated to that wireless
connection. This means that every user of each device (computer,
iPad, iPhone etc) connected to that WiFi connection will use the
same IP address. Even a random passerby accessing the WiFi network
would be using the same IP address. This decision makes a lot of
sense to us. If it holds up, copyright owners will need to be a
whole lot more savvy about how they identify and pursue copyright
infringers and, perhaps, we've seen the end of the mass
"John Doe" litigation.
We do not disclaim anything about this article. We're
quite proud of it really.
To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.
Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.
IP is the legal property in the innovation in your business and it is that which drives your revenue and profit growth.
Some comments from our readers… “The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable” “I often find critical information not available elsewhere” “As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).