Copyright Infringement and Why an IP Address is NOT Sufficient Evidence
An IP address is often associated with an individual because they are often assigned to a device and the owner of the said device is basically the person behind the IP address. Every device connected to the network comes with an IP address that can be used for identification. ISPs also assigned this information to every subscriber for the same purpose.
But what if a specific IP address is involved in copyright infringement? Should the person behind the IP address be held liable? The latest ruling on a Canadian case provides a good idea on how these cases will play out.
Voltage Holdings and the Movie "Revolt"
"Revolt" is a 2017 Sci-Fi film under Voltage Holdings. Although a relatively unknown movie, it has been distributed through peer-to-peer file sharing or torrent sites. In Canada, uploading copyrighted content without permission through torrent or peer-to-peer could bring the person in trouble with the law. Subscribers are noticed about their potentially illegal actions twice - after which they could be liable.
Voltage Holdings was able to obtain the IP address of 110 individuals along with their names and addresses as provided by their ISPs. These individuals defaulted on the claims from Voltage Holdings and have requested compensation for their actions. Their claim for compensation from defaulting individuals was denied.
IP Address as Sole Evidence
The claim for compensation by Voltage Holdings were blocked because their sole evidence is the IP address of the subscribers. According to Torrent Freak, while an IP address is indeed associated with the subscriber, there is no "direct link" between the subscriber and the act of piracy itself. Voltage argued that since they were already put on notice yet continues to do so makes them liable for pirating content. The judge assigned on the case last June 2022 asked for more evidence as it declined judgment without dismissing the case.
Voltage Holdings opted to raise the concern to the Federal Court of Appeal. However, the same conclusion was made even though there is an argument that Voltage Holdings has done everything they could to provide evidence and the IP address is the only evidence they could technically capture. They alleged that those who own the IP address should be held liable because they have "authorized" someone to infringe even though they are not directly in connection with the act.
The Federal Court of Appeal has denied the claims of Voltage Holdings since they still failed to provide further evidence on authorization of use of the internet related to copyright infringement. Even though the 110 individuals did not participate or in the process, Voltage Holdings was unable to provide enough evidence to make their claims.
Profiting from Piracy through Legal Proceedings
Voltage Holdings' case on their movie, particularly in Canada, is a sample of movie companies taking advantage of using piracy to turn a profit for their film. The two strikes rule is still in place to discourage anyone from pirating illegal content. While piracy should be illegal in copyrighted content, there are movie companies who allegedly make legal threats to individuals about illegally sharing content simply because their IP address is associated with sharing a file. Unfortunately, there are movie studios that use legal proceedings to their advantage to turn a profit just by suing anyone associated with their list of IP addresses.
There is always an argument to be made about individuals who ACTIVELY pirate copyrighted content because it is downright illegal. However, it should be noted that illegal activities have to be proven with sufficient evidence and an IP address is not exactly a slam dunk against those who have allegedly pirated content.