Judge denies subpoenas based on IP addresses

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U.S. Judge Harold Baker has ruled, in the case of VPR Internationale v. Does 1017, that IP addresses don’t necessarily equate to a person guilty of copyright infringement. This may be quite a notable statement in regards to the myriads of piracy lawsuits happening in the United States.

This case was brought forward by VPR Internationale, a Canadian adult film company, who filed a motion for expedited discovery. VPR wanted to serve subpoenas on internet service providers in order to obtain subscribers’ private information.

The Quebec based adult entertainment provider had 1,017 unidentified IP addresses it wished to find physical locations for. An article by TorrentFreak said that the purpose of obtaining the personal information of supposed copyright infringers is to negotiate a quick settlement—a practice which has been compared to extortion.

100,000 users have been targeted by these extortion-like schemes in the last year.

Judge Baker noted, “The embarrassment of public exposure might be too great, the legal system too daunting and expensive, for some to ask whether VPR has competent evidence to prove its case…the imprimatur of this court will not be used to advance a ‘fishing expedition by means of a perversion of the purpose and intent’ of class actions.”

The judge’s logic in denying the adult film company the subpoenas revolved around a recent Buffalo, New York story about an unsecured router. The FBI conducted a raid against a man they thought guilty of distributing child pornography. It turned out that his 25-year-old neighbor was the culprit and had been piggybacking off the innocent homeowner’s wireless connection.

The New York man’s example led the judge to his point that a copyright infringer might just be piggybacking in the same way, and could be a neighbor or even someone parked out on the curb; so the IP address isn’t sufficient evidence to invade their privacy and the court has no jurisdiction over these “Does”.