Print 60 comment(s) - last by khaydin.. on May 24 at 12:47 PM

  (Source: Kevin Pezzi)
Lack of technical knowledge plagued the court for years, allowing the RIAA to victimize citizens

Judge Harold Baker, a judge at the Central District Court of Illinois, has ruled that an internet protocol address does not necessarily mean a specific person, and thus can not be treated as such in a criminal or civil investigation.

I. IP Doth Not a Person Make

Technology professionals have long understood that IP addresses are closer to a zip code than a social security number.  Multiple people locally accessing or remotely funneling through a specific hotspot can share IP addresses.  In short, IP address offers little clue to a users' true identity.

Yet for years the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), along with its international peers, has been victimizing individuals into out of court settlements, because their IP address was found to be sharing copyrighted materials.  Some of these individuals didn't even have access to a computer, and in at least one case, the target of the RIAA complaint was a recently deceased elderly individual.

In court, the U.S. largely upheld IP logs as evidence in trials such as the cases against Jammie Thomas-Rassert and Joel Tenenbaum.

And recently, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and its sister agencies have been conducting raids on suspected child pornography viewers based solely on IP logs -- with minimal background research.  In many cases these raids were later discovered to be case of mistaken identity -- but that discovery came too late for brutalized homeowners.

II.  The VPR Internationale Case

Judge Baker ruled against a Canadian adult film distributor in the case VPR Internationale v. Does 1-1017.  In the case, VPR Internationale sought court authorization to demand customer data from internet service providers.  

It had collected logs of IP addresses of users' illegally sharing its materials via bittorrent.  By obtaining the subscriber information associated with the specific account, it hoped to coerce the subscriber into a settlement ranging from hundreds of dollars to a few thousand dollars.  As there was 100,000 IPs implicated in its request, the company stood to make a multi-million dollar profit from the settlements.

But as it turns out Judge Baker rejected the request, pointing out that multiple users could share an IP and requesting information would violate the subscriber's privacy rights.  He said the court was not in the business of authorizing a "fishing expedition" at the consumers' expense.

In the ruling [Scribd], he writes, "Orin Kerr, a professor at George Washington University Law School, noted that whether you’re guilty or not, you look like a suspect. Could expedited discovery be used to wrest quick settlements, even from people who have done nothing wrong? .. [T]he embarrassment of public exposure might be too great, the legal system too daunting and expensive, for some to ask whether the plaintiff VPR has competent evidence to prove its case."

III. The Road Ahead

The issue of IP addresses as evidence has hardly been laid to rest, though the practice was dealt a major blow by the ruling.

Generally, only higher courts will rule against an existing precedent in the U.S.  So the question becomes when and if a higher court takes this issue up, will they come to the same conclusions?

The public in the U.S. will have to wait to see whether future justice follows the same logical, well-informed perspective of Judge Harold.

In the meantime, the ruling should prove tremendously valuable to those looking to defend themselves against the RIAA or other threatening parties.  Texas lawyer Robert Cashman, who has represented several individuals in scuffles regarding IP-related copyright claims, blogs, "We may have just seen the order that may end all future John Doe lawsuits."

Recent legal decisions have also cast doubt on entertainment industry organizations' claims that "making available" equated to file-sharing.

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RE: Nomenclature
By Fritzr on 5/4/2011 7:35:50 PM , Rating: 2
Basic (all dialects)
All assemblers that I have used
Standard mathematical notation.

<> is the standard notation
! represents the NOT operator in C so NOT EQ is written !=
This has been picked up in other programming languages, but is only used where ! is used as the NOT operator.
Many languages substitute NE for the <> operator.

RE: Nomenclature
By StuckMojo on 5/5/2011 1:44:28 AM , Rating: 2
Standard SQL uses <>

RE: Nomenclature
By Integral9 on 5/5/11, Rating: 0
RE: Nomenclature
By Solandri on 5/5/2011 2:24:37 AM , Rating: 2
Standard mathematical notation.

<> is the standard notation

Standard mathematical notation is ? (assuming the character mapping works on this site).

But yeah, I've used !=, <>, written =/= on sites which can't display ?. I prefer != because it looks vaguely like ? and is rather distinct. <> is easy to mistake for (), c>, or even O depending on the font.

Also, the logic for <> is that since >= means "greater than or equal to" and >= means "less than or equal to", then <> should mean "less than or greater than", which for numbers is the same thing as "not equal to". But the logic doesn't work for non-numbers. e.g. "IP address is less than or greater than Specific Person" makes no sense. But "IP address is not equal to Specific Person" makes perfect sense.

RE: Nomenclature
By JediJeb on 5/5/2011 12:42:42 PM , Rating: 2
In the old macro language I have to use at work to program our instrumentation in the lab, ! is used to denote Remark so if ! is used anything following is meaningless.

RE: Nomenclature
By Fritzr on 5/8/2011 10:38:07 AM , Rating: 2
Grade school algebra
1<2, 3>2, 1<>3

The last operator means literally greater than OR less than.

The ? operator is one that I have never seen used as an NE operator, it is usually found as an operator in an IF statement meaning choose an option from the following list based on the condition.

Like the other arithmetic operators, the less than & greater than operators have been loaded with other usages.

The meaning of less than and greater than has been extended by assuming they mean later/earlier, larger/smaller, faster/slower...all of which translate to less or greater as a measurement.

So A before B in the alphabet gives A<B. C follows B in the alphabet so C>B. A is not C so A<>C. By assigning code numbers that have the same order as the alphabet computers can use these operators on the byte code representing the letters even if they cannot compare strings.

For those that can compare strings the shorter string is LESS THAN the longer string and if length is the same then the first mismatched char will be earlier or later than it's counterpart in the other string using the coding system for the char set.

? may be used in formal mathematics to disambiguate the <> operator, however in day to day usage it is used to mean what/why/where/when ... in other words to represent a question.

As far as your not being able to tell <>, () {}, [] and the other bracket chars apart, that is going to be a major problem for you if you decide to learn Perl where a(), a{}, a<> and a[] are all valid with different meanings :D

RE: Nomenclature
By sabbede on 5/6/2011 10:23:12 PM , Rating: 2
!= is used in many scripting languages. Even STATA uses ! as not and != as not equal.
I like to use it in inappropriate locations where it will likely serve only to confuse.

"The Space Elevator will be built about 50 years after everyone stops laughing" -- Sir Arthur C. Clarke

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