One of the ways copyright holders are able to determine where copyright materials have been downloaded is by tracing the IP address, which in most cases usually reveals information about that person, like their name, phone number, home address, and so on.
For the most part that is how copyright holders, like record labels and movie studios, track down people who might have been pirating their property, such as through torrents. However in a recent ruling by a judge, it seems that he might have set a precedent in which IP addresses will start to lose their potential as a way of tracking down a pirate.
Judge Ursula Ungaro was presented with a case brought by Malibu Media who recently accused the person behind a particular IP address of pirating their films using BitTorrent without their permission. In the past the judge might have granted them a subpoena which would force ISPs to reveal who is behind the IP address.
However according to Judge Ungaro, she felt that despite all the evidence that pointed to the IP address being the one who has been pirating the movie, there is no way of proving that the account holder is the actual person who has been downloading/pirating the file.
“Plaintiff has shown that the geolocation software can provide a location for an infringing IP address; however, Plaintiff has not shown how this geolocation software can establish the identity of the Defendant.” She later adds, “There is nothing that links the IP address location to the identity of the person actually downloading and viewing Plaintiff’s videos, and establishing whether that person lives in this district.”
The court has since decided to dismiss the case for improper venue. Her ruling does make sense because if there are multiple users at home sharing a single internet connection, there’s no way of telling who is the one actually downloading the file based purely on IP address alone. This does not mean that you should go on a downloading spree but it does mean that copyright holders might have their work cut out for them in the future.