Judge Issues Devastating Ruling Against Online Copyright Crusaders

Washington District Judge Robert Lasnik ruled simply that IP addresses are not individuals, according to a report by Torrentfreak.

An “Internet Protocol” address is a numerical value placed on a computer that is participating in Internet traffic. An Internet Service Provider, or ISP, is the company that provides consumers with Internet access.

Copyright infringement cases have traditionally sought to target either the ISP, or the person behind the IP address (the person whose name is on the bill).

This piracy case was like any other against alleged copyright infringers: it relied completely on the judge’s interpretation of an IP address as an individual person, or that person’s individual responsibility.

From the ruling:

“[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 … 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.”

Cory Doctorow of BoingBoing calls the ruling “surprisingly sane” and notes that certain firms have “gained notoriety” for so-called copyright trolling — when companies seek to gain financially from filing lawsuits aimed at several people for sharing information copyrighted content over peer-to-peer networks.

In this case, it was against 152 people who allegedly illegally downloaded copies of the movie “Elf-Man.”

While Internet users have lost some battles — “the 6 strikes law” — and won some — a judge ruling that ISPs cannot be subpoenaed for personal information — activists against copyright trolling call Lasnik’s ruling another “nail in the coffin.”

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