The ongoing war between copyright holders and pirates of their digital content will likely rage until the internet is no longer in existence. As we have seen with the resurrection of leaders of pirating sites who experience highly-publicized arrests, and governments’ attempt at shutdowns of certain publishing websites, legal interference with illegal activity online has little bearing. Despite multiple attempts to shut down Kim Dotcom’s pirating site Megaupload, not only does the site still exist and publish copyrighted content, Kim Dotcom is seeking a listing on the New Zealand stock exchange currently for his new company called Mega. Gottfrid Svartholm’s illegal file-sharing site Pirate Bay continues to publish copyrighted material and experience wide usage, despite Svartholm himself having been imprisoned after being internationally wanted as a cyber criminal. But some less high-profile, individual cases in U.S. court rooms have been actually siding with BitTorrent pirates — the latest in Florida.
VISUAL CONTEXT: MUSIC PIRATING
Florida District Court Judge Ursula Ungaro has ruled against copyright owners by declaring that the use of IP addresses to identify individual people responsible for downloading copyrighted material is not valid — that IP addresses cannot sufficiently be used as evidence to grant a subpoena which is then used to force internet providers to provide personal details of the account holder. The case was brought by Malibu Media — which tried to have the court issue a subpoena for a user it claimed it had identified using a specific IP address — and has been dismissed. Torrent Freak quotes Judge Ungaro’s official statement:
Plaintiff has shown that the geolocation software can provide a location for an infringing IP address; however, Plaintiff has not shown how this geolocation software can establish the identity of the Defendant…There is nothing that links the IP address location to the identity of the person actually downloading and viewing Plaintiff’s videos, and establishing whether that person lives in this district…Even if this IP address is located within a residence, the geolocation software cannot identify who has access to that residence’s computer and who would actually be using it to infringe Plaintiff’s copyright.
This is not the first case that has ruled against copyright owners trying to pinpoint individual users who download their content through BitTorrent sites — indeed, the number of cases has spawned the term “copyright trolls”, which is similar to patent trolls in that it denotes a company that preys upon smaller organizations or individuals — perhaps wrongly so — for downloading any content without permission. A New York judge ruled in 2012 against copyright owners in a similar case, and in California in February 2013, a judge also ruled that IP addresses are insufficient for use as evidence against individuals in BitTorrent cases. The numbers of cases brought against BitTorrent users and file-sharers will have to pass this roadblock to make any headway in pinpointing the actual committers of the crimes.