The problem inherent in a number of ongoing copyright infringement lawsuits is that they rely on the spurious reasoning that an IP address can be directly connected to a person. In reality, an IP address is just a label given to a device accessing the Internet. By this logic, when someone doesn’t secure their Wi-Fi connection, and piracy occurs through it, the whole illegal matter will trace back to the subscriber. A judge in California has now ruled that subscribers have no legal duty to secure these connections, meaning they’re not liable for said piracy.
The case in question had AF Holdings, a video pornography company, suing an Internet subscriber named Josh Hatfield. According to TorrentFreak, AF Holdings alleged that Hatfield had a “duty to secure his Internet connection,” but he “breached that duty by failing to secure his Internet connection.” Thus, according to them, Hatfield was legally liable for all the copyright infringement incurred over his unsecured Wi-Fi connection. Hatfield’s stance was that AF Holdings couldn’t prove that folks are obligated to secure these connections.
Judge Phyllis Hamilton made the obvious choice and concurred with Hatfield. Her verdict essentially states that the defendant had no relationship with AF Holdings and therefore was not legally bound to secure his Wi-Fi connection to prevent piracy. She goes on to say that Hatfield wasn’t actually “alleged to have engaged in any misfeasance by which he created a risk of peril[.]” Basically, AF Holdings had no grounds for copyright infringement against him.
This is ultimately just another volley in the ongoing copyright wars, but one that clearly favors the general public. If nothing else, this sets precedent to help resolve similar cases in the future and might give pause to any copyright holders looking to use the same tactic.
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