In a likely setback to the MPAA and RIAA's antipiracy efforts, a federal judge has ruled that an IP address alone is not enough to accuse a specific individual of illegal downloads.
An IP address only identifies the location at which any number of Internet-connected devices may be located, much that a single telephone number can be used by many telephones, Magistrate Judge Gary R. Brown of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York said in a ruling earlier this week.
"Thus, 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 26-page ruling (see below).
Brown recommended that the case, which accused unidentified defendants of illegally downloading adult movies, be dismissed because discovering the identity of the individual associated with a device was "unlikely" to reveal the identity of the true defendant.
"Most, if not all, of the IP addresses will actually reflect a wireless router or other networking device, meaning that while the ISPs will provide the name of its subscriber, the alleged infringer could be the subscriber, a member of his or her family, an employee, invitee, neighbor or interloper," Brown wrote.
The ruling comes as Voltage Pictures, the movie studio behind "The Hurt Locker,"against 2,500 BitTorrent users it accuses of illegally downloading the Oscar-winning film. The studio, which alleges it has lost millions of dollars in revenue, hopes to get a subpoena to reveal the alleged movie sharers' identities via their ISP addresses.