Tuesday August 28, 2018

Court Rules on Merits of IP Address Identification in Open WiFi Case

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals was presented with a case about open WiFi and the responsibility of the owner of the network when someone commits copyright infringement on the IP address. Thomas Gonzalez was sued by the makers of the Adam Sandler movie, The Cobbler. He had won his initial day in court, but the copyright owners appealed the decision. In the new ruling, Judge Margaret McKeown had this to say, "In this copyright action, we consider whether a bare allegation that a defendant is the registered subscriber of an Internet Protocol ('IP') address associated with infringing activity is sufficient to state a claim for direct or contributory infringement." She then states, "We conclude that it is not."

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The district court properly dismissed Cobbler Nevada's claims. The direct infringement claim fails because Gonzales's status as the registered subscriber of an infringing IP address, standing alone, does not create a reasonable inference that he is also the infringer. Because multiple devices and individuals may be able to connect via an IP address, simply identifying the IP subscriber solves only part of the puzzle. A plaintiff must allege something more to create a reasonable inference that a subscriber is also an infringer. Nor can Cobbler Nevada succeed on a contributory infringement theory because, without allegations of intentional encouragement or inducement of infringement, an individual's failure to take affirmative steps to police his internet connection is insufficient to state a claim.