But does it identify the ISP’s subscriber or account holder?
“An IP address provides only the location at which one of any number of computer devices may be deployed, much like a telephone number can be used for any number of telephones.”
“Thus, it is no more likely that the subscriber to an IP address carried out a particular computer function – here the purported illegal downloading of a single pornographic film – than to say an individual who pays the telephone bill made a specific telephone call.”
The Judge continues by arguing that having an IP-address as evidence is even weaker than a telephone number, as the majority of US homes have a wireless network nowadays. This means that many people, including complete strangers if one has an open network, can use the same IP-address simultaneously.
“While a decade ago, home wireless networks were nearly non-existent, 61% of US homes now have wireless access. As a result, a single IP address usually supports multiple computer devices – which unlike traditional telephones can be operated simultaneously by different individuals,” Judge Brown writes.
“Different family members, or even visitors, could have performed the alleged downloads. Unless the wireless router has been appropriately secured (and in some cases, even if it has been secured), neighbors or passersby could access the Internet using the IP address assigned to a particular subscriber and download the plaintiff’s film.”