Cobbler feels the shoe-leather: An IP address is still not a human

Are Adam Sandler fans human? Court didn't rule on that ...

The defendant in the “Adam Sandler downloader” case has had another win, in a long-running a case over whether or not he downloaded the movie “The Cobbler”.

The original case against Thomas Gonzales of Oregon was thin from the get-go: Cobbler Nevada, as copyright owner, got Comcast to identify Gonzales as the lessee of the IP address that downloaded the movie on BitTorrent, and wanted him to pay up for the download.

Gonzales was merely paying for the internet connection used by a care home, and he ignored Cobbler's offer to settle “for a small fee if he accepted responsibility for the piracy” as we reported in 2016, fought the case, and won.

$17k win for man falsely accused of a terrible crime: Downloading an Adam Sandler movie


In 2016, the plaintiff couldn't even get the court to sting Gonzales for costs, with Magistrate Judge Stacie Beckerman ruling that Gonzales was entitled to bill Cobbler for the 55-plus hours of lawyer time it took to fend off the case.

On appeal on August 27, Cobbler once again got the boot. For the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Margaret McKeown penned this opinion (PDF) which once again dumps on the adequacy of an IP address as an identifier.

“The panel held that the bare allegation that the defendant was the registered subscriber of an Internet Protocol address associated with infringing activity was insufficient to state a claim for direct or contributory infringement. The panel also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in awarding attorney’s fees to the defendant”, Judge McKeown wrote.

In a welcome legal recognition that IP addresses can be shared, the court panel (District Judge Michael Simon presiding; Circuit Judge Richard Paez and District Judge Robert Lasnick beside McKeown) writes that since “multiple devices and individuals may be able to connect via an IP address”, a plaintiff “must allege something more to create a reasonable inference that a subscriber is also an infringer”.

Another part of Cobbler's complaint also felt the judicial shoe leather: the accusation that Gonzales contributed to the infringement: “an individual’s failure to take affirmative steps to police his internet connection is insufficient to state a claim”.

All that's left for Gonzales is to identify the Adam Sandler fan in the care home, and educate them in cinema. ®

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