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Judge: An IP Address Is NOT A Person

The battle between copyright holders and BitTorrent users may have taken a sharp turn in favor of the alleged copyright infringers thanks to a recent ruling filed by Illinois District Judge Harold Baker. Friday he said that IP addresses do not equal persons, and thus prevented an adult film studio from accessing personal data tied to IP addresses.

In the case VPR Internationale v. Does 1-1017, Judge Baker denied adult film studio VPR Internationale the means to subpoena ISPs for personal information connected to IP addresses. His reason was based on the recent child porn incident where a man was wrongfully apprehended and accused of downloading child pornography when in fact it was his neighbor leeching from his unprotected Wi-Fi network at home.

Based on that incident, the unnamed copyright infringers accused in VPR Internationale's lawsuit may have had nothing to do with the alleged offense, but instead was "piggybacked" by the real offenders who possibly leeched from their unsecured Wi-Fi connections. "The infringer might be the subscriber, someone in the subscriber’s household, a visitor with her laptop, a neighbor, or someone parked on the street at any given moment,” Judge Baker wrote in his ruling last Friday.

The matter becomes even more delicate when it involves the sharing of adult films. "Orin Kerr, a professor at George Washington University Law School, noted that whether you’re guilty or not, you look like a suspect," he wrote. "Could expedited discovery be used to wrest quick settlements, even from people who have done nothing wrong? The embarrassment of public exposure might be too great, the legal system too daunting and expensive, for some [innocent victims] to ask whether the plaintiff VPR has competent evidence to prove its case."

The judge concluded his ruling stating that the court isn't going to support "fishing expeditions" for subscribers' details if there is no evidence that the court has jurisdiction over the defendants. "Until at least one person is served, the court lacks personal jurisdiction over anyone," he said. "The court has no jurisdiction over any of the Does at this time."

Baker's ruling could spell the end of "pay-up-or-else-schemes" that have previously nailed more than 100,000 U.S.-based BitTorrent users to the wall over the past year alone. It may also be the end of all future John Doe lawsuits if other judges reach the same conclusion in their file-sharing cases.

Head here to read the entire document.

  • FloKid
    Wow really we can click freely?
  • mister g
    I suddenly had hope for the US Justice System! This has got to be one of the smarter rulings in recent years, Cheers!
  • fir_ser
    Good to hear this news.
  • techguy911
    The judge is right im a computer tech with my own business i get dozens of people a week that are infected with a trojan proxy which can allow other users to download files using your ip most current av's don't pick them up due to the rootkit hiding them.
  • teaser
    Finally someone has the balls to make this point......
  • bin1127
    just hire the guys who hacked sony if you want personal info.
  • house70
    you go, Baker! Show them the right way...
  • NuclearShadow
    Sadly I do not see all courts doing this as well. You would have to be blind to not see the biased towards big business over the common man when it comes to American courts. In-fact in this certain case it may simply be because its the porn industry instead of a more powerful one. There has been no doubt cases of completely innocent people being sued by the RIAA or MPAA and winning without actually proving guilt and of course even the innocent cannot adequately defend themselves as they do not have the financial means to so settling despite being innocent is cheaper. It's obvious that they also do not care if they sue innocent people.

    The laws and courts are simply not only biased but lenient on corporations as well. Take BP as a example. BP has more reported safety violations on record than every other oil company combined. The maximum amount they can be fined for such is $100,000 which is often cheaper to pay than to actually fix the problem so they pay the fine and never fix the risk.
    The BP oil disaster devastated the ecosystem, the economies that relied on the area, and killed 11 people. All because of the known neglect of safety that BP is known for.
    Just looking at the deaths alone that is at-least 11 counts of manslaughter or perhaps more fitting negligent homicide. BP executives made the choices to ignore known problems yet not one is jailed. Yet under any conditions if this was a common individuals action that lead to the death of 11 people they likely would never leave prison alive.

    Its our duty to make sure the law remains fair, just, and uncorrupted. It's our duty to elect the right people for the jobs to make those laws therefor it is our fault that things have become this way. You have the power to stop this.

    With that I get off my soap-box.
  • eklipz330
    sweet justice!!!!
  • jhansonxi
    I am not a number, I am a free man. - The Prisoner