When a judge makes a good decision, it shouldn't be news. But, in this case, it's very good news indeed. This week New York Magistrate Judge Gary Brown for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York filed a 26-page ruling pointing out that the person listed as an Internet account holder is often not the person using the account.
"It is no more likely that the subscriber to an IP address carried out a particular computer function–here the purported illegal downloading of a single pornographic film–than to say an individual who pays the telephone bill made a specific telephone call," Brown said in his Order & Report & Recommendation, filed May 1.
"An IP address merely identifies the location where a certain activity occurred", Brown noted. A computer in a household is usually shared, which means a child, a boyfriend, or any other visitor, is just as likely to be using the computer. Brown also noted that many households now have a wireless network. If the network is not secured, many people, including neighbors and strangers, can be sharing that IP address without the original account holder's knowledge.
"Considering the weak relationship between an IP address and personal identity, it's likely copyright holders were accusing the wrong people of violating copyright", Brown noted. Mass-BitTorrent lawsuits relying entirely on IP addresses to identify copyright infringers were a "waste of judicial resources," he wrote.