The District Court for the Northern District of California today ruled against copyright holders, saying that it will not assist them to identify BitTorrent users. The copyright holder, Hard Drive Productions, purveyors of online pornography, filed a suit against multiple people, named as John Does 1 through 90 in the suit, for illegally sharing files without the studio’s authorization.
Hard Drive filed the suit in hopes that the court would subpoena internet service providers so as to identify the IP address associated to the ninety BitTorrent users who shared the movie, “Amateur Allure – Natalia” over a 63 day period last year. However, Hard Drive didn’t actually intend to pursue litigation against the BitTorrent users, which persuaded Judge Howard R. Lloyd to conclude the following:
The court realizes that this decision may frustrate plaintiff and other copyright holders who, quite understandably, wish to curtail online infringement of their works. Unfortunately, it would appear that the technology that enables copyright infringement has outpaced technology that prevents it. The court recognizes that plaintiff is aggrieved by the apparent infringement and is sympathetic toward its argument that lawsuits like this one are the only way for it to find and stop infringers. However, the court will not assist a plaintiff who seems to have no desire to actually litigate but instead seems to be using the courts to pursue an extrajudicial business plan against possible infringers (and innocent others caught up in the ISP net). Plaintiff seeks to enlist the aid of the court to obtain information through the litigation discovery process so that it can pursue a non-judicial remedy that focuses on extracting “settlement” payments from persons who may or may not be infringers. This the court is not willing to do.
In other words, the court won’t do the grunt work for Hard Drive in identifying the John Does just to the studio can pursue the matter privately.
Still, there would be no guarantee that the ISP would reveal the identity of the BitTorrent users. Had one of the John Does been using a public ISP or even a private ISP that was not secure, the subpoena would merely reveal the account holder for the ISP and not the actual identity of the BitTorrent user. It would roughly be the equivalent of someone stealing your car in order to embark on a crime spree. Because it was your vehicle that provided the means for the criminal to perpetrate said crimes, you wouldn’t expect to be held liable even though you had nothing to do with it, would you?
Further, IP addresses can be masked, so they’re hardly incontrovertible proof of identification.
Any thoughts on this ruling? Disagree or agree?[Via Slashdot.]