In what could be an intriguing decision, a federal judge in Oregon has recommended the dismissal of a case against a user who allegedly pirated an Adam Sandler movie. According to the judge, linking an IP address to someone's internet connection isn't enough to directly tie someone to piracy.
According to the case, which TorrentFreak reported on, copyright holders for The Cobbler lodged a suit in the Oregon District Court against Thomas Gonzales for pirating the Adam Sandler film.
Unfortunately for the filmmakers, they relied on what used to be the tried-and-true method of linking an IP address to a user's internet connection. And as far as Magistrate Judge Stacie Beckerman was concerned, that wasn't enough to tie the defendant to the alleged infringement.
"Plaintiff has not alleged any specific facts tying Gonzales to the infringing conduct," Judge Beckerman wrote. "While it is possible that the subscriber is also the person who downloaded the movie, it is also possible that a family member, a resident of the household, or an unknown person engaged in the infringing conduct.
"The only facts Plaintiff pleads in support of its allegation that Gonzales is the infringer, is that he is the subscriber of the IP address used to download or distribute the movie, and that he was sent notices of infringing activity to which he did not respond. That is not enough."
Lawyers for the plaintiffs were allowed to depose Gonzales to uncover anything else tying him to the Sandler shocker, but they weren't able to dig up any further evidence.
The important element of all this is not just that Judge Beckerman was taking a stand, but that United States District Judge Anna J. Brown adopted her filings earlier this month. Torrentfreak got a copy of Judge Brown's response to Beckerman's recommendations, which she upheld in full:
Plaintiff alleges Defendant’s IP address “has been observed and confirmed as distributing plaintiff’s motion picture” and “as associated with the peer-to-peer exchange” of copyrighted materials. First Am. Compl., ¶¶ 13, 14. Plaintiff contends Defendant, as the IP subscriber, copied and distributed Plaintiff’s copyrighted movie and, therefore, infringed Plaintiff’s exclusive rights. The Magistrate Judge concluded this was “not enough” and noted:
While it is possible that the subscriber is also the person who downloaded the movie, it is also possible that a family member, a resident of the household, or an unknown person engage in the infringing conduct.
This Court agrees with the Magistrate Judge that Plaintiff has failed to allege sufficient facts to state a plausible claim "tending to exclude the possibility that an alternative explanation is true."
Of course, this is just one court in Oregon. It doesn't mean judges in other states will suddenly, or can, adopt similar interpretations of the "plausible" standard applied in these cases. And it certainly doesn't have any impact on Australian judges and copyright cases here.
But it's interesting to see judges pushing Hollywood to collect actual evidence. And it's a hell of a lot more interesting than The Cobbler.