District Court Judge Harold Baker has denied a copyright holder the right to subpoena internet service providers of alleged copyright infringers, because IP addresses are not people. This ruling may end up setting a precedent for future cases regarding copyright infringers, as just in the last year alone, copyright holders have sued over 100,000 infringers, but with this ruling, copyright holders may not be able to legally force an ISP to divulge the IP addresses of its customers, which would prevent the copyright holders from obtaining the personal information of the infringers.
The ruling was handed down during a case that saw a Canadian adult film company attempt to subpoena various ISPs for the personal information connected to the IP addresses of its customers. Judge Baker ruled that an IP address isn’t the same as a person and they should not be viewed as such, because this sentiment could obstruct a fair legal process in future cases. The judge made a good point, citing a recent child pornography case where the FBI raided the wrong people as the result of the actual culprits using innocent people’s IP addresses for their illegal activity. Judge Baker felt that using the IP addresses to target an infringer could easily result in targeting the wrong people, stating, “the infringer might be the subscriber, someone in the subscriber’s household, a visitor with her laptop, a neighbor, or someone parked on the street at any given moment.”
Though Judge Baker’s ruling only currently applies to the specific case in which he handed down said ruling, it may lead the way for other judges to adopt his logic, setting a precedent for future copyright infringement cases, which would ultimately be a huge setback for the copyright holders, a huge win for both the guilty and innocent parties the copyright holders target, as well as huge headache relief for the innocent ISPs who are bullied to divulge customer information.