6 May 2011

VPR v John Does: IP Subscribers ≠ Copyright Infringers

Anonymous-Suit-black High Resolution PNG (2404 x 3890)photo © 2010 OperationPaperStorm | more info (via: Wylio)

Who remembers Depeche Mode’s People Are People?
It basically says that people are different: they are different colours and have different needs.
In a more or less similar spirit, a court order issued by the Honourable Harold H. Baker, justice at the United States District Court for Central Illinois, says that people are different from IP Addresses.
Not that we did not know it, but now it is official.

I guess that, during the last couple of months, you have obtained knowledge of the much criticised mass litigation conducted by (alleged) right-holders in Europe and, particularly in the United States.

In fact, one could speak of an

Emerging Business Model

that had some success, but now seems to have been dampened.

Why? What happened?

VPR, a Montreal-based producer of adult entertainment content (claimant) filed a complaint against 1,017 John Doe defendants who had allegedly involved in file-sharing. Claimant was not aware of the identity of the alleged infringers, but was in the possession of their Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. Since Internet Service Providers (ISP) assign IP addresses to their subscribers, claimant moved to obtain so-called Doe subpoenas directed to the ISP with the clear aim to determine the identity of the Does.
ISP would have been under an obligation to reveal their subscribers’ identity, had claimant only been granted the subpoenas.

Yes, you may trust your eyes:

His Honour denied

claimant’s motion in an outright manner.

Justice Baker reasoned upon his order citing a press article which reported how a family was falsely raided by federal agents after a neighbour of that family had misused their WiFi connection to share illegal material. Not surprisingly, the agents had obtained a Doe subpoena prior to the raid.

Having carefully scrutinised the list of IP addresses attached to VPR’s complaint, His Honour found that it suggested, in at least some instances, a disconnect between IP subscribers and copyright infringers and that such disconnect could occur in another family or individual entering into a conflict with the law.
He thus refused to assume responsibility for causing harm to (very likely) innocent Internet users.

I say Justice Baker’s approach

Deserves Acclaim

Why?
Because mass-litigation conducted by copyright trolls relies on the speed kills principle: the proceedings must go fast, involve thousands of defendants and be cheap. Claimants seek to identify their victims and serve them with settlement agreements to make them pay amounts that undercut the cost necessary to procure legal defence. The victims must be put under pressure and have no or just very little time to react.
Hence, every obstacle on the way to a settlement agreement may prove decisive for a copyright troll’s business model.
Justice Baker’s dismissal is such an obstacle and it can make the Canadian copyright troll drop its claims.

Therefore, three cheers to His Honour and his responsible finding.
After all, IP subscribers and copyright infringers are not necessarily the same.

Or have I missed something?

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