Judge Wary of Geolocation Technology in Porn Piracy Case

Mar 25, 2014 9:45 AM PST

MIAMI — A Miami federal judge, familiar with the hundreds of porn piracy cases that have found their way and clogged her district's courtrooms, tossed one of them last week on the basis that she didn't buy into the geolocation technology that purportedly was used to finger an alleged infringer.

The case involves serial plaintiff Malibu Media, the parent company of X-Art.com, in the pursuit of one John Doe defendant. The adult entertainment company, at XBIZ post time, has filed more than 1,950 civil cases against individuals and groups of individuals for copyright infringement via peer-to-peer file-sharing sites in the past year and a half.

Malibu Media argued in its case against Doe that its investigator used geolocation technology that "has always been 100 percent accurate when traced to the Southern District of Florida."

But U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro threw out the case against Doe, identified by Malibu Media as the user at a certain IP address. In her two-page decision that dismissed and closed the case, she said that Malibu Media has not shown how the geolocation software can establish the identity of defendants.

"There is nothing that links the IP address location to the identity of the person actually downloading and viewing plaintiff’s videos, and establishing whether that person lives in this district," Ungaro ruled. "For example, when arguing that this IP address is not a coffee shop or open Wi-Fi network, [Malibu Media] points to the timing of the alleged infringement and the fact that the Internet service provider typically provides Internet to residences.

"[Malibu Media] then argues that a coffee shop owner could possibly identify the defendant.  Even if this IP address is located within a residence, the geolocation software cannot identify who has access to that residence’s computer and who would actually be using it to infringe [Malibu Media's] copyright."

Ungaro also said that Malibu Media hadn't established good cause as to why the action should not be dismissed for improper venue.

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