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Judge dismisses piracy suits, says IP address doesn't confirm state

The ruling is a blow to 15 piracy lawsuits in California seeking to identify the location of BitTorrent users based on IP address.

Elinor Mills Former Staff Writer
Elinor Mills covers Internet security and privacy. She joined CNET News in 2005 after working as a foreign correspondent for Reuters in Portugal and writing for The Industry Standard, the IDG News Service and the Associated Press.
Elinor Mills
2 min read

A California judge has dismissed 15 lawsuits against John Does accused of sharing pirated adult movies on BitTorrent, saying the court lacks jurisdiction because the geolocation tools relied on don't always accurately identify the state in which the IP address is located.

In order to serve Internet service providers subpoenas to find out which individuals are behind IP addresses linked to alleged pirated content on BitTorrent, the lawyers for plaintiff Celestial needed to convince the judge that the IP addresses are located in California. But the judge said he was not persuaded that the geolocation tools had a high enough accuracy rate.

"Based on plaintiff's own reliability claims, there may still be a 20 to 50 percent chance that this court lacks jurisdiction," Judge Dean Pregerson of the U.S. District Court in the Central District of California wrote in his decision from May 1, which was reported on by TorrentFreak.

"Even if the most advanced geolocation tools were simply too unreliable to adequately establish jurisdiction, the court could not set aside constitutional concerns in favor of Plaintiff's desire to subpoena the Doe Defendants' identifying information," the judge wrote. "Again, it is the First Amendment that requires courts to ensure complaints like this one would at least survive a motion to dismiss, before the court authorizes early discovery to identify anonymous internet users."

In another setback to antipiracy efforts, a judge in New York ruled two weeks ago that IP address alone is not sufficient to accuse a specific individual of illegal downloads because of the potential that multiple people can use the same computer.

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