It does not question the method used to even come up with an IP, in the first place. It does not ask them to prove an IP was involved in file sharing. It still just takes their word for it.
That's not what I'm reading.
The process of legal discovery and the rules of evidence are complex and I'm definitely not the best qualified person to try to discuss them. But from what I think I understand about how it works, our court system (in the absence of unimpeachable eyewitnesses to an act) relies on a preponderance
of evidence to establish the proof of a claim.
So what the court seems to be saying is that an IP address alone is not (in the court's opinion) sufficient evidence in and of itself
to proceed with an intrusive discovery process.
I think the judge (quite correctly) has left the door open that an IP address could
be admissible as corroborating evidence
once something more reliable has been used to identify an alleged perpetrator.
It's like saying just having an IP address isn't sufficient evidence to accuse somebody of something. But if you were able to ID the person through a more direct, specific, and reliable forensic - then the fact you could also show a link to the person via an IP address (which points to the accused's location at the time of the violation
) would likely be acceptable and admissible as evidence at that point because it adds
to the preponderance of evidence proving guilt.
Really not that different from using a credit card purchase to show the accused was in the general vicinity of the crime which they were being accused of despite their assertions they were 200 miles away at the time of the crime.
But by the same token, that's supporting evidence. Just combing through all the credit card transactions for twenty-four hours before and after a crime had been committed - and then cross matching them to anybody with a prior criminal record - wouldn't be enough to get a most judges to issue 50 warrants "just in case."
And John Doe warrants have never been very popular with most judges since they're ripe for abuse. About the only time I've ever heard of JD warrants being issued is for unnamed accomplices after one or more named warrants had also been issued. Like when a robbery takes place, and the witnesses say there were four
gunman. If one or two suspects had been ID'd by a camera or another witness, a warrant would likely be issued for those individuals along with JD warrants for the remaining number since there isn't anything to attach a name to other than the fact the accused obviously had help.
So no, I don't think Wright erred in not slamming the door on using any IP address as evidence. But I do think he was correct in saying you needed more than just that
to ask the court to force an ISP to disclose the identities of subscribers associated with those addresses. Primarily because there isn't enough of a direct link to justify something that intrusive and potentially damaging to the reputations of those who might accused.
He's basically saying "I need something a lot better than that. Bring me a name first
. Then I'll consider having the ISP say whether or not there's a match to that specific name with one of the IP addresses you've furnished."
I think that's a good and very reasonable call on the judge's part.