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NY Judge Rules IP Addresses Insufficient To Identify Pirates 268

Posted by timothy
from the that-pesky-proof-thing dept.
milbournosphere writes "New York Judge Gary Brown has found that IP addresses don't provide enough evidence to identify pirates, and wrote an extensive argument explaining his reasoning. A quote from the judge's order: 'While a decade ago, home wireless networks were nearly non-existent, 61% of U.S. homes now have wireless access. As a result, a single IP address usually supports multiple computer devices – which unlike traditional telephones can be operated simultaneously by different individuals. Different family members, or even visitors, could have performed the alleged downloads. Unless the wireless router has been appropriately secured (and in some cases, even if it has been secured), neighbors or passersby could access the Internet using the IP address assigned to a particular subscriber and download the plaintiff's film.' Perhaps this will help to stem the tide of frivolous mass lawsuits being brought by the RIAA and other rights-holders where IP addresses are the bulk of the 'evidence' suggested."
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NY Judge Rules IP Addresses Insufficient To Identify Pirates

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 03, 2012 @05:41PM (#39883343)

    This still means that an IP address is sufficient for them to seize and search your computer hard disks and such, so if you have corroborating evidence there you'd still be fucked. It's just not sufficient in the absence of anything else.

  • Don't know why it wasn't in the writeup. This ruling was in the federal court for New York's East District [wikipedia.org], which I think (IANAL) means it is precedent there (but not necessarily elsewhere in the country)

  • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Thursday May 03, 2012 @05:47PM (#39883443) Homepage Journal
    Those are criminal infractions; 'piracy' is technically a civil matter.
  • by slater.jay (1839748) on Thursday May 03, 2012 @05:50PM (#39883483)
    The standard for probable cause in the case of a search warrant is significantly lower than the standard for conviction.
  • by ugen (93902) on Thursday May 03, 2012 @06:19PM (#39883831)

    This is a great argument. Unfortunately, once we are all moved to IPv6, and with help of IPv6 zealots who are against NAT privacy protection "on a principle" - each device behind home router will receive its very own unique IP (perhaps more than one, if temporary IPs are used, but certainly unique address). Once that is in place, the argument no longer holds and we are back to square one.

    I certainly hope that Linux network stack crowd (because they are the ones whose product will be used, as is customary, in large chunk of wifi routers and other home network devices) will get something done before copyright holders wisen up, and poke Comcast/Cox cable/Verizon to roll out IPv6 to end users.

  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Thursday May 03, 2012 @06:25PM (#39883925)

    The standard for probable cause in the case of a search warrant is significantly lower than the standard for conviction.

    Yes, but everyone is hungup on the idea that the plaintiff has to prove an individual is responsible. At the moment, this may be true, but it's not much of an obstacle. Whenever you park your car illegally, they write a ticket out to the vehicle owner; And there have been many cases where the vehicle's owner was later arrested for not paying a fine they didn't know about because they had loaned their vehicle out to someone else. And unless the vehicle owner can prove they weren't the ones operating the vehicle, the courts have held they are responsible; They can't simply say "It was Ghost Man that parked my car downtown, not me!"

    So for now, in that jurisdiction, they may be able to stop people from being sued for copyright infringement based on the IP address alone; But laws can and will be passed within a few years there where the ip address "owner" is responsible (and by owner, I mean ISP subscriber).

    At best, this is an empty victory: It may stall copyright enforcement in that juridsdiction temporarily, but it will resume, and the cat and mouse game will move forward. They'll just start using things like timing, traffic analysis, client version identification, etc., to form digital fingerprints that (after they've seized your computer) will be used to individually identify you even from behind your standard NAT router.

  • From Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]:

    Privacy extensions for IPv6 have been defined to address these privacy concerns. When privacy extensions are enabled, the operating system generates ephemeral IP addresses by concatenating a randomly generated host identifier with the assigned network prefix. These ephemeral addresses, instead of trackable static IP addresses, are used to communicate with remote hosts. The use of ephemeral addresses makes it difficult to accurately track a user's Internet activity by scanning activity streams for a single IPv6 address.

    Privacy extensions are enabled by default in Windows, Mac OS X (since 10.7), and iOS since version 4.3. Some Linux distributions have enabled privacy extensions as well.

    People dislike NAT because it's a crappy idea whose best featured are better implemented in other ways. It's not because we're too dumb to understand the issues or too cavalier to care about them.

    I certainly hope that Linux network stack crowd (because they are the ones whose product will be used, as is customary, in large chunk of wifi routers and other home network devices) will get something done before copyright holders wisen up, and poke Comcast/Cox cable/Verizon to roll out IPv6 to end users.

    We did, about a decade ago.

  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Thursday May 03, 2012 @09:35PM (#39885675)

    "It's not flawed at all, it's just a position you disagree with."

    Actually, it is flawed, because automobiles are just about the only things for which the courts have upheld this idea... and there is very little doubt that they have done so for no reason other than that not doing so would interfere with their own branch of government's revenue stream, just as someone else mentioned. Otherwise they would have generalized the concept to other areas of the law... but they haven't.

    In general, you cannot be held liable for other people's actions, even if they used something belonging to you in order to do it. Automobiles have been held to be an exception to that, but that's the important part: they are an exception, not the rule. So as an analogy it doesn't work.

    "You're an accomplice in any illegal activity if you fail to take any steps to prevent it. "

    Horsepucky. It just doesn't work that way. In most states -- maybe even all -- this is simply not true. There is no obligation on the part of a citizen to prevent others from committing crimes. It simply isn't a valid legal principle. I could stand by and watch a man shoot other people for no reason, and I am still not his accomplice. Not even remotely, in any area of the law with which I am familiar. I am not obligated by law to insert myself into the situation at all. Failing to do so might mean I was not a very nice person, but it does not make me a criminal.

    The only exception to this of which I am aware is that some states have "Good Samaritan" laws that require you to help people under certain, specific circumstances. For example, in my state you are obligated to stop and help someone who is stuck in the snow in a remote area, because the chance of otherwise not finding help and freezing to death is so great. And to be honest, I am not convinced that even that law is completely Constitutional.

    "There's plenty of legal precident to support my position, and only moral indignation to support yours."

    No, there isn't. I know for an absolute fact that my state laws contradict every single thing you have stated here, the sole exception being the part about automobile liability. And I am pretty sure that most other states are similar.

  • by Anthony Mouse (1927662) on Thursday May 03, 2012 @10:00PM (#39885817)

    You're an accomplice in any illegal activity if you fail to take any steps to prevent it.

    I'd be curious to hear which law school you attended that taught you that, considering how wrong it is.

    My previous example demonstrates additional legal situations where the owner can be charged for a crime that's committed by the user, absent proof that the user did it instead of the owner.

    You neglect that your examples are the exception rather than the rule. Cars are large, fast, dangerous and expensive. They have their own rules. Almost nothing works that way, nor should it. The person responsible is the person responsible, not random innocent bystanders who happens to be in the general vicinity or who lent general purpose tools to someone not knowing they would be used for nefarious purposes.

  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Friday May 04, 2012 @01:39AM (#39886961)

    Actually, it is flawed, because automobiles are just about the only things for which the courts have upheld this idea...

    Oil tanker owner [lloydslist.com] held liable for captain being negligent and crashing. Owner [nwsource.com] of a building complex that caught fire held liable, even though he wasn't the one who started the fire. Hotel owner [wisconsins...ryblog.com] held liable for meth lab being setup in room. Owners of male cattle [bible.cc] not held responsible for bull killing someone. By the way, that's a biblical reference; I just wanted to demonstrate it's not a new concept. I can provide many, many more examples. It's not just cars. If you own something, you can be held responsible if you're neglegent in the maintenance of it.
    Your failure to secure your wifi connection and then having it used in the commission of a crime makes you liable for damages. This has already happened [bbc.co.uk] in the UK and Germany. It's currently being looked into in several jurisdictions in the United States [myce.com]. Bottom line here, there is plenty of legal precident here and globally to create, enforce, and have upheld, a law that makes the owners of an unsecured network legally liable for illegal activity which occurs on it.

    No, there isn't. I know for an absolute fact that my state laws contradict every single thing you have stated here, the sole exception being the part about automobile liability. And I am pretty sure that most other states are similar.

    I have provided several links indicating that at the state and national level, this is something that is being considered, has legal merit, and may be enforceable. Your turn.

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