In a ruling that some have called yet another nail in the coffin, a federal judge dismissed a case against one of the defendants in a mass BitTorrent lawsuit. According to him, the IP address being used by the plaintiff as its sole evidence is not enough to prove criminal liability in the act of piracy.
The ruling from Judge Robert Lasnik of Washington District is just one of similar decisions handed down against similar mass lawsuits. This particular case revolves around the movie Elf-Man, whose studio decided to sue hundreds of people on allegations of piracy or facilitating in the piracy.
Such mass lawsuits are not that rare nor that new. In what can be best described as a fishing expedition, studios or copyright holders try to get subpoenas with simply just a list of IP addresses as evidence of piracy. If a judge falls for the trick, the plaintiffs can then force Internet service providers to spit out the personal details of those subscribers, who they can then sue by name. Some, of course, fought back and have succeeded as in this recent case.
The Elf-Man makers claimed that those IP addresses point to people who have either pirated the film directly or permitted or facilitated the piracy. Judge Lasnik, however, was not convinced. According to him, an evidence made up purely of IP addresses does not meet the legal requirements of pleading standards for pursuing the case.
To be clear, the judge did not say that those owning the IP addresses did not commit the piracy. The fact of the matter and the law is that it is almost impossible to associate piracy based on the IP address and the IP address alone. The actual culprit might have been a family member, guest, or even a hacker. At the very least, the subscriber with that IP address can be scolded for not safeguarding his or her home computer. This ruling and others before it could provide the needed legal precedent to have other similar frivolous cases dismissed as well.