Following a decision by a US Court Judge the legal system will finally get to grips with the often thorny issue of whether an Internet Protocol (IP) address represents strong enough evidence of piracy by a particular individual.
In a landmark decision Judge Michael Baylson, a Senior Federal Judge from the Pennsylvania District Court, has ruled that in view of the many doubts surrounding the validity of such IP evidence, this is something that should come before and be debated by the Courts.
The case at hand is a mass tort and involves IP evidence gathered by copyright holders regarding alleged copyright infringements via BitTorrent.
In particular Judge Baylson highlighted the issues surrounding Court Orders requested by copyright holders instructing ISPs to reveal details of specific customers accessing their service under a specific IP address.
Judge Baylston is not convinced that an IP address is conclusive enough evidence to identify a particular individual that illegally download copyrighted material and states in his decision that "there is no reason to assume an ISP subscriber is the same person who may be using BitTorrent to download the alleged copyrighted material".
Issues regarding unsecure networks, dynamic IP addresses allocated to multiple users and networks that have been hacked will be debated along with the concept of "a 'swarm' of computer users who successfully downloaded and shared separate pieces of Plaintiff’s motion pictures, which were eventually, by mutual or joint action,'pieced together' so that the motion pictures were reconstituted and could be viewed, without securing Plaintiff’s permission or paying a royalty to Plaintiff".
Clearly there are some key and very salient points to be debated here and critics of the tactics employed by the copyright holders will be watching this trial keenly with great interest.
For the more legally minded Judge Baylson's decision can be viewed in full here.