Ever since I first learned of the brutal litigation campaign launched by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) on behalf of the 4 major labels back in 2003, which spread a giant dragnet over many moms, pops, granddads, children, disabled people, and even dead people (on occasion), I’ve wondered how the Courts could allow these cases to proceed when the only evidence the RIAA had was a sometimes-accurate linkage of an alleged copyright infringement to an internet access account.
The RIAA had ZERO knowledge of who the actual infringer was, and would simply sue whoever had paid the bill for the internet access account in question.
At first, the courts didn’t seem to get it, that the infringer — if infringer there was — could have been anyone visiting at someone’s home, or anyone coasting off someone’s wireless signal.
As the RIAA wound down the volume of its campaign, a new campaign was born following the same strategy, this one brought primarily by purveyors of adult films. This time around, however, various federal judges have taken note of the problem with the plaintiffs’ tenuous reasoning.
The IP Address Problem
In a San Diego, Calif., case, AF Holdings v. Rogers, the Chief Judge of the federal court for the Southern District of California granted a motion to dismiss the complaint, for failure to state a claim, meaning he has thrown the case out altogether.
Chief Judge Barry Ted Moskowitz ruled as follows:
[T]he Court is concerned about the lack of facts establishing that Defendant was using that IP address at that particular time. Indeed, the [complaint] does not explain what link, if any, there is between Defendant and the IP address. It is possible that Plaintiff sued Defendant because he is the subscriber to IP address …. As recognized by many courts, just because an IP address is registered to an individual does not mean that he or she is guilty of infringement when that IP address is used to commit infringing activity.
Although the judge gave the plaintiff’s lawyer some rope to show some additional evidence linking the defendant to the infringement, the plaintiff’s lawyer — having no such evidence — simply withdrew the case, probably figuring he’ll go find some more gullible judges than Judge Moskowitz.
This was a seminal ruling, and it is anticipated that many other judges will follow suit. If enough do, this bizarre, cruel, pointless, and meritless litigation campaign, will be brought to an end.
(We had an interesting discussion of the AF Holdings case on Slashdot.)