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Piracy The Courts

Florida Judge Rules IP Address Can't Identify a BitTorrent Pirate 158

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the you-are-number-74.110.69.73 dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Florida District Court Judge Ursula Ungaro has dismissed a lawsuit brought by Malibu Media against an alleged BitTorrent pirate. Though Malibu Media explained how they geolocated the download site and verified that the IP address was residential rather than a public wifi hotspot, the judge reasoned that the 'Plaintiff has not shown how this geolocation software can establish the identity of the Defendant....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.' Judge Ungaro's ruling is not the first of its kind, but it could signal a growing legal trend whereby copyright lawsuits can no longer just hinge on the acquisition of an IP address."

213923681-Gov-uscourts-flsd-434635-10-0

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Florida Judge Rules IP Address Can't Identify a BitTorrent Pirate

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  • by Trax3001BBS (2368736) on Monday March 24, 2014 @06:43PM (#46569701) Homepage Journal

    I run a hot spot from my router, open to all.

    • How is this "a growing trend"? I thought it was settled law by now.

      For at least the last 3 years, every court case I have seen that deals with this (and there have been more than a few) has ended with the same ruling. In both state and federal court.

      And no wonder: it's physical fact. My wifi does not even identify my residence, much less me. I see other people logged in all the time. (To my open guest account, that is.)

      At my last place of residence, I had my router (with a great signal) open to the
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 24, 2014 @06:48PM (#46569725)

    There has to be a blind squirrel involved somehow.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 24, 2014 @06:50PM (#46569751)

    I'm connected to an ISP in Brisbane, Australia. But my ISP bought a block of IP addresses from someone else so most GeoLocation services tell me I'm sitting somewhere in France.

    • I get that from time to time too. Google France can catch you off guard, although it hasn't happened for a while now.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      > most GeoLocation services tell me I'm sitting somewhere in France.

      How would you prove them wrong? You could put marmite on your baguette, but marmite is also known in France. Perhaps put some marmite on your router?

      • Vegimite, mate. Aussies are mad for Vegimite.

        Didn't see a single jar of Marmite the whole time I was there.
      • by jedidiah (1196)

        I just pulled up one of these websites and it put me at about 20 miles off my actual location. Although it's not as bad as ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD, it's hardly very accurate.

        A defense attorney could have a lot of fun with this. Perhaps a defense attorney already did and that's what led to this ruling.

    • by arbiter1 (1204146)
      My internet ip is allocated to an area. Even if they geoip me at best they will have a general area around 2000 square miles of where i live. Even then they don't know who was using the connection at the time could be me, someone else in the house or even someone that hacked my wifi.
      • by anubi (640541) on Monday March 24, 2014 @08:53PM (#46570513) Journal
        When I try to log anything going through my system, I get all sorts of activity that I have no earthly idea what it is... but if I block it, there will be some app that suddenly stops working.

        I am reticent to block all activity except for known ports, as a lot of today's software requires me to run the stuff open so they can communicate with their home base.

        I would be in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act if I were to reverse engineer the code to find out exactly what they wanted. So, in accordance of my understanding of the Terms of Compliance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which was bought by the Copyright Holders, I run my wireless nodes that pass information subject to softwares governed by the DMCA wide open. I do not attempt to monitor, reverse engineer, or try to "break their codes". Like watching activity on the street, its not my issue with what other people are doing. Its been my experience that interfering in other people's doings is not very healthful.

        The Copyright Industry has fought long and hard, spending countless resources to have law passed that makes ignorance of how one's stuff works as a condition of lawful compliance with their terms and conditions. We are now getting a lawfully compliant population who leaves every port on their system open because some copyright holder might want to use that port, closing it will cause the system to malfunction. Troubleshooting and repairing the malfunction is now defined by our Congress as being in violation of Copyright Law.

        For my critical stuff, which I have not signed away any rights, I can still communicate securely, but for the commercial stuff, which I agreed to leave access wide open, I comply.

        But as far as my wireless access points...

        I HAVE NO EARTHLY IDEA WHAT IS GOING THROUGH IT.

        Nor, do I feel I am lawfully allowed to know.

        As far as I am concerned, I am running a public toilet.

        Anyone is welcome as long as they don't come in and make a mess.
    • by Hentes (2461350)

      It wasn't used as evidence, it was used in the hope of getting the judge to issue a subpoena to the ISP, providing real evidence.

      • But, what "evidence" could the ISP provide? Nothing more than has already been established. Someone used the customer's IP address to download copyrighted material. Nothing more, and nothing less. Could be the guy who pays the bill, could be his kids, could be his spouse, could be a house guest, could be some kid out front of the house with a laptop. That seems to be what the judge has ruled.

        • by Hentes (2461350)

          In all those cases, the owner of the subscription should be at least questioned as a witness.

          • That sounds fair enough, until a MAFIAA starts sending out thousands of subpoenas that all must be answered at the witness' expense. Each and every person must travel to a venue of the MAFIAA's choosing, just to be deposed? Huh-uh, that doesn't sound right to me.

    • by rtb61 (674572)

      At the end of the day the ISP provides those IP addresses based upon time of use and with sufficient security to allow a bill in the tens of dollar range. Considering that this is the sole evidence in infringements that could result in penalties of hundreds of thousands of dollars any ISP providing this evidence should be forced to warrant the accuracy of this evidence to tune of at least one million dollars (get it wrong and they owe the defendant this for a false accusation) or clearly state that the inf

    • I know what you mean, I am either somewhere in southern China or some where two states away. I live in the Midwest in the USA. GeoLocation is such a great method of location someone.
  • ...and grandparents can breathe easier today.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Scribd is completely broken in browsers without javascript. Anyone got a link to the actual ruling?

  • by GumphMaster (772693) on Monday March 24, 2014 @07:17PM (#46569951)

    This is one of those cases where the settlement shakedown, even with the threat of publicly exposing one's porn viewing habits, has failed. Some more here: https://www.eff.org/cases/mali... [eff.org]. Maybe they will eventually give up the cause but I expect the X-Art lawyers to keep going in every other district and jurisdiction while there is still a buck to be extracted.

    • by hairyfeet (841228)
      What I want to know is why they haven't been prosecuted for extortion? Their bozo lawyers filed the evidence against them with the court for Christ's sake, the fact that they name a bunch of lewd titles they don't own and can't sue over, the last list I saw had titles like "bareback trannies" and "I buttfucked the babysitter" so its pretty damned obvious the ONLY reason to list a bunch of titles that they don't own is to intimidate the person into paying...classic extortion.
      • by Chelloveck (14643)

        the last list I saw had titles like "bareback trannies" and "I buttfucked the babysitter" so its pretty damned obvious the ONLY reason to list a bunch of titles that they don't own is to intimidate the person into paying...classic extortion

        But if X-Art doesn't own those, who does? I'm... um... asking for a friend, you see...

  • by halfEvilTech (1171369) on Monday March 24, 2014 @07:18PM (#46569955)

    I mean of all places florida?

  • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Monday March 24, 2014 @07:21PM (#46569987)

    What about Comcast wifi routers that offers hotspots to other Comcast subs with there newer wifi routers being placed at homes. What do they show up as?

    • by LMariachi (86077)

      An airtight defense.

    • >> What about Comcast wifi routers that offers hotspots to other Comcast subs with there newer wifi routers being placed at homes. What do they show up as?

      XFinityWifi has a separate IP range.

    • You're required to log in to use that feature, even if you're sitting in a van on the street. As such, it makes the tie back to an identity a bit stronger than an IP address alone would provide, and since they'd know it was a Comcast address, it'd be simple to at least subpoena whether it was the homeowner's account or not. If you were the guy in the van, you'd have to explain how your account got logged in at their wifi access point across town. If you're the homeowner, they'd have evidence that it was not

  • by hedgemage (934558) on Monday March 24, 2014 @07:22PM (#46569989)
    IANAL but isn't making the assumption that the registered user of an IP address is responsible for any and all illegal activity that involve that IP address the same kind of leap of logic that you'd make if you assumed that any crime committed with a gun directly implicates the registered owner of said firearm?
    • by TavisJohn (961472)

      The problem is that unless you pay for a fixed IP address, your IP address can change at any time. So you can have one IP address today and in an hour, day or a week have another.

    • Remember, we're talking about civil suits here, where the burden of proof is "preponderance of evidence," not "beyond a reasonable doubt" as it is in a criminal proceeding. Even if you have an open WiFi hotspot, it's not enough to show that somebody else could have used it. In order to win with that defense, you'd have to show that somebody else probably did leach off your connection and download whatever it was. In this case, the judge ruled that the fact that the plaintiffs knew what physical location
      • by BitZtream (692029)

        it's not enough to show that somebody else could have used it.

        You can show someone else used it all day long, in America, you are responsible for what happens if you leave your wifi completely unprotected.

        You have to PROVE it was someone else, and you have to prove it was someone else specifically. 'Someone I don't know used my open wifi, it wasn't me!!' will be considered guilty for all practical purposes.

        There is legal precedent for this already.

      • Remember, we're talking about civil suits here, where the burden of proof is "preponderance of evidence," not "beyond a reasonable doubt" as it is in a criminal proceeding. Even if you have an open WiFi hotspot, it's not enough to show that somebody else could have used it. In order to win with that defense, you'd have to show that somebody else probably did leach off your connection and download whatever it was.

        It's common sense that if I wanted to download stuff illegally, I wouldn't do that at my own home where I can easily be found, but I would indeed leach someone else's connection. So it is more likely that the downloading wasn't done by the person who can be found easily.

        • "I'm not stupid enough to have done that" might raise enough reasonable doubt to get you acquitted in a criminal case, although the prosecutor would probably argue that it's just as reasonable to think that you might have done it simply because you didn't think that a jury would find you dumb enough to have tried it. Depending on how good your lawyer was, you might or might not get away with it.

          However, as I pointed out in the text you quoted, this is a civil case, not a criminal one. Just making the ju
  • by xigxag (167441) on Monday March 24, 2014 @07:25PM (#46570023)

    You know how this will eventually play out. They'll wind up amending the law to state that whoever the ip address is assigned to is prima facie liable and will have to prove their innocence. Loophole closed.

    • by pipedwho (1174327)

      Isn't guilty until proven innocent (or rich) already standard operating procedure over there in the USA?

    • You know how this will eventually play out. They'll wind up amending the law to state that whoever the ip address is assigned to is prima facie liable and will have to prove their innocence. Loophole closed.

      Not just that, because the pro-privacy/freedom side is just gloating about how they keep getting wins, while the MPAA/RIAA/anti-privacy side is busy lobbying, any eventual amendment will likely be the worst possible amendment, with no input from the pro- side.

    • by alen (225700)

      wouldn't they have done this with cars and red light or speeding camera tickets already?

      • by Fned (43219) on Monday March 24, 2014 @08:18PM (#46570339) Journal

        "wouldn't they", nothin' Done and done. [jalopnik.com]

        • by Kaenneth (82978)

          Judges just LOVE when 'clever' people try to find ways around the law. that guy is gonna get screwed so hard.

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      Yes with all the international treaties floating around expect to see local and national laws reflecting traditions surrounding 'innocence" to be protected.
      A simple way would be after your ip is seen few times via logs your home is searched. To get your computer and other electronic or networked appliances back worth $100's or many thousands expect $20,000 in ongoing legal fees and related experts over many months, years.
      With networking and remote access been built into more common household appliances y
  • by gavron (1300111) on Monday March 24, 2014 @08:47PM (#46570487)

    The ruling is good. Let's enjoy that.

    However, this is a HORRIBLE writeup. It suggests that "...IP-address evidence can't identify the person who actually downloaded the pirated file."

    Under current US law:
    1. There is no copyright infringement in downloading a file.
    2. Files are. They just are. They are not "pirated files."
    3. MAKING INFRINGING CONTENT AVAILABLE TO OTHERS is what is considered copyright infringement/distribution. THAT is why an IP address is important... if one SHARES and MAKES AVAILABLE A FILE. It takes a court to determine whether the actions constitute an actionable behavior.

    I can't believe Torrentfreak got it wrong. At least they got the headline right. And this is a good ruling.
    Hopefully fightcopyrighttrolls.com and dietrolldie.com won't make that mistake.

  • by viperidaenz (2515578) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @01:40AM (#46571719)

    In my country the owner of the ISP account is liable.

  • Two police officers are patrolling a street in Queens, NY.

    A gunshot rings out. One officer falls, gasping, and dies in a pool of blood.

    The detective investigating the case correctly identifies the house from which the gunshot came.

    Do we simply look up the owner, arrest him and charge him with the crime? He is after all responsible for the house, so maybe 3-6 hours of violent anal dilation in jail will convince him to turn over the miscreant.

    Or is a more nuanced question, such as whose finger was actually on

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