IP Address Does Not Even ID a State, Judge Decides in Landmark BitTorrent Lawsuit


Just a few weeks after a New York judge decided that an internet protocol address is not enough evidence for lawsuits against accused illegal file-sharers, a California judge has ruled that an IP address can’t even pinpoint one’s state.

As detailed by CNET, the judge tossed out lawsuits against 15 John Does said to have illegally shared pirated adult movies via BitTorrent. The judge said that the court “lacks jurisdiction because the geolocation tools relied on don’t always accurately identify the state in which the IP address is located.”

TorrentFreak quotes the judge’s decision:

“Based on plaintiff’s own reliability claims, there may still be a 20 to 50 percent chance that this court lacks jurisdiction…even if the most advanced geolocation tools were simply too unreliable to adequately establish jurisdiction, the court could not set aside constitutional concerns in favor of Plaintiff’s desire to subpoena the Doe Defendants’ identifying information…again, it is the First Amendment that requires courts to ensure complaints like this one would at least survive a motion to dismiss, before the court authorizes early discovery to identify anonymous internet users.”

This likely means no more mass BitTorrent suits in California. Though this type of ruling does not apply to the rest of the U.S., it appears that many in the legal system are becoming increasingly wary of such bulk claims.

Look again at that recent New York decision slamming the alleged connection between IP and identity.

In a 26-page ruling, U.S. District Court for New York Magistrate Judge Gary Brown argued that “the person listed as an account holder is often not the person who downloaded the copyrighted material,” as ” ‘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,'” PC Magazine notes.

Some 250,000 Americans have been sued since 2010 in these John Doe lawsuits, TorrentFreak reports. However, it appears that lawmakers and attorneys worldwide are now paying greater attention to the nuances of internet identity.