Judge Rules an IP Address is Not Proof of Identity

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A Washington federal judge this week ruled that an IP address can’t be used against you as evidence of piracy, or less specifically, your IP address can’t be used solely as evidence to drag you into a copyright infringement lawsuit.

This federal order was a part of the many continual BitTorrent piracy/copyright infringement lawsuits of the past few years. The specific case in question was related to the complaint levied from the “Elf-Man” movie studio at web users who pirated the studio’s film using BitTorrent. To the studio, the IP of each defendant in the case was monitored and caught in the act of piracy by either downloading it themselves, or by using their internet connection for the use of others to download the film.

“[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.

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

Based on this, an IP address can be used as evidence in a case related to piracy, but it so far can’t be used as the sole evidence in such a case. It also can’t be used to launch a suit.

In addition to this recent case ruling, a Reddit thread surrounding the news offers up some great discussion about the role of IP in a user’s identity, as well as what this means for users going forward.


— Landon Robinson

Landon is BestTechie's Director of Video. He currently lives in North Carolina, where he plays video games, runs, writes and scours the world for every last edible nacho.




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