Is the owner of internet access, i.e., a subscriber to an ISP whose connection is assigned an IP address, legally liable for any violation of copyright that might occur via that connection?
In Europe, even though the top EU court, the ECJ, in the past ruled “yes” – there is still pushback and uncertainty in legal terms at the member-state level.
There doesn’t seem to be absolute clarity in the US, either, but at least when it comes to copyright trolls attempting to prove infringement by equating people to IP addresses, several federal courts are lately opting to simply throw their complaints out.
Lawyer and YouTuber Leonard French dissects one such case that saw Judge Katherine Hayden of the New Jersey District Court rule to deny Malibu Media’s copyright motion against Amiram Peled.
More than that, the judge denied Malibu Media, “a porn studio,” an automatic win after its motion went unopposed by the defendant.
When a defendant ignores lawsuits, US federal courts tend to issue default judgments in favor of the plaintiff, having only the information they submitted to work with.
Not in this case, however. Instead, the judge decided that Malibu Media’s claim that an IP address was sufficient to determine somebody’s identity was not an acceptable argument.
According to French, Malibu Media in the past filed thousands of copyright infringement lawsuit relying on identifying alleged infringers by their IP addresses.
These actions are what qualifies the company as a “copyright troll” – and the judge wouldn’t have missed that point.
In fact, the court adopted the reasoning from a previous case to dismiss Malibu Media’s motion – when another copyright troll’s claim was thrown out for being based on the same method of identification of infringers.
The “troll” was another porn maker, 3 Strike, whom the previous US federal court ruling described as engaged in predatory litigation, establishing at the same time that IP addresses are not a reliable way to establish somebody’s identity.
The judge in that case said use of VPNs, IP address spoofing, password-cracking malware, multiple people and devices sharing the same internet connection/IP, etc., are some of the reasons why this method is unreliable.
“A plaintiff must allege something more to reasonably infer that a subscriber is an infringer,” the judgment said.