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Is an IP address sufficient evidence to prosecute an alleged file-sharer? This is a question that has been tackled by many in legal circles around the world. Some countries, including Canada, have court rulings that suggested that it wasn’t sufficient evidence by itself. In spite of this, ACS Law in the UK seems to think that it is. As a result, a number of users are stepping forward to say that they were wrongly accused of copyright infringement.Let’s back up here for a moment. An IP address can be found on a P2P network. A great example is BitTorrent where one merely has to jump into a swarm using Azureus or uTorrent and check out the seeders and leachers in the swarm to find an IP address. Technicalities aside, why can’t that IP address be used as evidence? That’s actually relatively straight forward – you can’t tie that IP address to a person as reasonable proof. What an IP can reveal in some countries is whoever pays the bills for the internet access to which that IP address belongs to. That doesn’t make that person immediately guilty of copyright infringement because of what can happen with an internet subscription.Does this person live alone? Or, like countless people, do they share that connection with someone else? What if it was a family in question? Numerous cases have shown that it’s frequently not the owner of the IP address, but someone else using the connection at the time.On top of that, what about Wifi? The use of Wifi is on the rise and numerous people do lack the technical expertise to encrypt their connection. That means anyone with a Wifi enabled laptop can use that connection. Few would dispute that unauthorized WiFi use can be bad in densely populated places. Even if the connection is encrypted, tech savvy individuals can find ways of bypassing the encryption via simple hacking methods such as a dictionary attack (all the possible words in a dictionary are fed through until one word works)These are just two reasonably possible ways that the owner of a given IP address would not be guilty of copyright infringement. There are plenty of other ways that an IP address can bring on false accusations and there have been false accusations in the past.The BBC points out that Which?, a magazine, has researched the subject and have found 20 people stepping forward to proclaim their innocence to copyright infringement accusations. These cases come from the over 6,000 legal threats sent out demanding £665 from last year. If that rings a bell for many observers, it should because it stems from the infamous Dream Pinball lawsuits. Among the 20 users that came forward, many of them say that they have never even heard of the game before. From the BBC report: Some 6,000 letters have been sent out by law firm ACS Law, on behalf of firms such as Reality Pump and Topware Interactive, who are the copyright owners of video games Two Worlds and Dream Pinball respectively. The government is keen to crack down on pirates, and the recently published Digital Britain report said that they could be pursued through the courts. “The government is basically calling for a crackdown on illegal file-sharers, which is fair enough, but we’ve got serious concerns about the process which identifies alleged file-sharers and we believe that innocent people are being accused,” said Sarah Kidner, editor of Which? Computing.The IP addresses of alleged file-sharers are initially obtained by anti-piracy firm Logistep which uses software that monitors file-sharing sites.While the Internet Service Provider Association said that the legal process is flawed, it brings up an even greater question even though Daven Port Lyon dropped the cases because of an investigation by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. What should happen when someone files a false copyright infringement claim? Shouldn’t there be repercussions to guard against such things as we are clearly seeing here?If one sends a few hundred, let along thousands as seen in the Dream Pinball fiasco, what guarantees each and every one of those legal threats are going to be targeting the correct individuals? If there’s no repercussions from filing a false notice, what’s to stop the copyright industry from suing every single identifiable IP address (0.0.0.0 – 255.255.255.255) and just dropping the cases for those who can use financial means to legally fight back? One wonders what the definition of a shakedown is if these kinds of actions aren’t. This isn’t even touching the kind of legal overhead that would result in the already strained judicial systems in many countries around the world.This is not to say these questions are necessarily new. As we’ve noted, these questions have been raised before countless times throughout the years. They are nothing new, yet, the same questions are either being raised or need to be raised. Sending 10,000 legal threats may sound like a good deterrent on paper, but when someone is falsely accused, that’s not just an anomaly, that’s potentially ruining someone’s life unnecessarily.This is just another example on why it is absolutely critical to have protections against false claims. Not just paying out a few hundred dollars, but fully compensating people who have been falsely accused is what is important and making it feasible for victims to carry through with it