Judge rules IP addresses aren't enough to incriminate pirates

By on May 4, 2012, 2:30 PM

Judge Gary Brown, a federally-appointed magistrate judge of the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of New York, recently ruled that an IP address is no more able to identify wrong-doers than a telephone number can be used to incriminate someone. 

His determination was made in response to a fresh round of lawsuits launched by Voltage Pictures. The film studio's sights are set on 2,500 BitTorrent users who are accused of illegally downloading The Hurt Locker. The Oscar-worthy flick suffered underwhelming box-office revenue, something the flim studio has blamed on piracy and an early leak of the film.

Judge Brown's thoughts are spelled out in this 26-page court ruling where he discusses the precarious nature of using IP addresses to identify individual perpetrators. He also recommended the case be dismissed on that basis.

"Thus, it is no more likely that the subscriber to an IP address carried out a particular computer function -- here the purported illegal downloading of a single pornographic film -- than to say an individual who pays the telephone bill made a specific telephone call," [...] "Most, if not all, of the IP addresses will actually reflect a wireless router or other networking device, meaning that while the ISPs will provide the name of its subscriber, the alleged infringer could be the subscriber, a member of his or her family, an employee, invitee, neighbor or interloper"

Source: Ruling

In 2011, Voltage Pictures had launched a "reverse class-action" lawsuit -- the largest of its kind -- which targeted 24,583 individuals thought to have downloaded The Hurt Locker. Those accused were being sued for an average amount of $2500-$3000 each. Interestingly, that means the studio stood to collect as much as $70 million or so in damages -- enough dough to make any movie a box office hit.

Because of the film studio's "shoot first, ask questions later" approach, the original mega-lawsuit had been slowly unraveling as prosecutors scurried to link IP addresses to the identities of suspected culprits. In January 2012, the case was dismissed by Judge Beryl Howell on the grounds that Voltage Pictures could not produce enough evidence to support its lawsuit within the time limit of 120 days. Voltage tried narrowing its focus to 2,300 suspects but still couldn't meet the court's deadline. Judge Howell then denied the prosecution's request for an extension, effectively ending the lawsuit.




User Comments: 22

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H3llion H3llion, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Budget $15 million

Box office $49,230,773

Still plenty, although the movie was decent should of gained 20-30 mill more then that. Oh well too bad. But that's not the point.

Good on the Judge

Cota Cota said:

Finally, a judge that didn't study economics in all his life.

Guest said:

I agree with the judge. Common sense all the way.

Blkfx1 Blkfx1 said:

Budget $15 million

Box office $49,230,773

Still plenty, although the movie was decent should of gained 20-30 mill more then that. Oh well too bad. But that's not the point.

Good on the Judge

Agreed +1

Guest said:

-Wonder how many many downloads The Expendables 2 will get. Chuck Norris ftw!

Tygerstrike said:

Im in agreement with the judge that no single person can be singled out using only their IP address. I get plenty of ppl who come to me complaining that their ISP gave them some giant bill because they didnt properly secure their home network.

Whats going to be really funny is if Voltage pictures just says screw it and drops the case. Then we see some 2500 instances of vandalism because Voltage gets all butthurt.

Guest said:

Finally! Someone on the bench that actually has a brain; for a minute there I thought it nigh impossible to find a judge that was not corrupt.

Good for them and good for the people!

Now, if there was just some way to prevent a movie from channeling $49,230,773 from decent people into devils of greed.

The fact that people who have attained such a grotesque amount of money sue innocent people to get even more makes me want to cry. It fills me with pain and apathy.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Actually, "The Hurt Locker" seemed entirely too depressing to waste the bandwidth, or risk the punishment downloading. Verily, not even dids't I rent it.

But kudos to a fair minded Federal Magistrate, for a decent decision.

Guest said:

The Hurt Locker didn't make do so well in the box office because it wasn't very good, not because it was leaked early. 2 hours and $40 I'll never get back.

Guest said:

way to go Voltage Pictures Lmao !

treetops treetops said:

asking 2.5-3k per movie is just greedy, everyone I know did not watch this movie because they said it looked depressing, I rented it and liked it, idk how they can get away with trying to charge people more for stealing simply because its digital.

p.s. the main thing that prevented me from pirating was morales, I figure its wrong, but when the movie makers seek such outrageous compensation it gives me a great excuse which I have been searching for up and down for to steal movies, er I mean the cute word pirate

NTAPRO NTAPRO said:

The Hurt Locker didn't make do so well in the box office because it wasn't very good, not because it was leaked early. 2 hours and $40 I'll never get back.

Wut $40? That's quite a bit for a theater movie lol.

Camikazi said:

Tickets, popcorn, drinks can easily get to $40 or more for 2 people.

treetops treetops said:

Tickets, popcorn, drinks can easily get to $40 or more for 2 people.

Maybe he lives in New York.

Archean Archean, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Actually, "The Hurt Locker" seemed entirely too depressing to waste the bandwidth, or risk the punishment downloading. Verily, not even dids't I rent it.

But kudos to a fair minded Federal Magistrate, for a decent decision.

+1 on both counts captain

Guest said:

To those who think the Judge is wrong, I ask what would happen if a person came into your house for e.g. and stole your ID and used it frauduently, or you had your ID stolen and you did not know until after the fact.

Would you serve time in jail for the acts of another, or be fined owing a large sum of money due to this?

So if they cannot prove your IP adress was comprimised or which indicvidual was doing the illegal filehsaring then they ahve no real case, it is akin to a person who owns a vehicle and that vehicle is used to do a robbery, unless you can place the owner of that vehicle in the car at the time of the robbery you have no case only circumstantial evidence and even then it only does harm to a prosecutors case by following that kind of frivelous lead.

Synopsis: The Judge followed the law I think it owuld be great if the prosecutors stopped trying to bend it to their own gains, as for lobbying to change the law then that would be a precedant case and I can only say the flow on effects would be a catastrophic event if you imagine that any person using a vehicle or other incident could be prosectued just because they own the vehicle or such for e.g.

Personal Note: people who download movies while they are sitll at the box office are parasites and are making it easy for the lobbyists who want to censor the internet for their own ends then those parasites are only promoting the net censoring.

H3llion H3llion, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Budget $15 million

Box office $49,230,773

Still plenty, although the movie was decent should of gained 20-30 mill more then that. Oh well too bad. But that's not the point.

Good on the Judge

Hmm actually when I said it was "decent" and should of gained 20-30mill more, I was thinking of Greenzone instead of Hurt Locker >.< Still...

Guest said:

Honestly that was a right decision. You cannot guarantee because a person holds the IP they are the one's doing whatever they are doing. Now if they are going to make it where the IP holder is ultimately responsible... That would be interesting to witness.

LinkedKube LinkedKube, TechSpot Project Baby, said:

Even in the cheapest of places with new releases

tickets(2) $17

popcorn $5

drinks $6

Candy $3.50

You're still going to spend 35 dollars in the most run down dumps. I spend 40+ easily when I take my gf to the movies.

Guest said:

I spend zero, I let the gf pay...;)

TorturedChaos, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Even in the cheapest of places with new releases

tickets(2) $17

popcorn $5

drinks $6

Candy $3.50

You're still going to spend 35 dollars in the most run down dumps. I spend 40+ easily when I take my gf to the movies.

For me its:

Tickets(2) $17.00

popcorn - $0 (I can make popcorn at home & fiance doesn't like popcorn)

drinks(2) - $1.00 (can of soda in my pocket)

candy(2) - $2.00 (thanks walmart, again in my pocket)

Total: $20.00

and I just ignore that sign at the door that says "No outside food and drink"

More on the topic I agree 100% with the judges ruling. I have had family who were accused of several internet related crimes because the neighbor cracked their WEP key and was using their wifi for a long list of illegal things online, nicest of which was piracy. Luckily the neighbor got busted and their was no other proof than than IP address that my relatives did anything.

Guest said:

Is it just me or does this decision have nothing to do with the Hurt Locker (directly at least)? This is related to a variety of adult film bittorrents...

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