One of the most basic questions for any party considering litigation is “Who is my defendant?” While the answer to that question has typically been straightforward, the Internet adds its own wrinkles. In a simple copyright case, for example, defendant is generally the infringer (leaving aside any contributory infringers). But if the infringement takes place over the Internet, the copyright owner may not know much about who the infringer is. Even in the best case, a plaintiff is unlikely to start with much more than an IP address—a number that identifies a computer or group of computers that may have been used to download or share all or part of an infringing file.
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