updated 03:15 pm EST, Tue January 29, 2008
EU rules on d/l privacy
As a pan-European policy, telecom companies have no obligation to hand over the personal information of those accused of illegal downloading, the European Court of Justice has ruled. The decision is a response to a Spanish court, which requested guidance in a case involving Telefonica SA and Promusicae, a trade organization for film and music producers. The Associated Press writes that Promusicae had asked for the names and addresses of suspected file sharers, but as the ECJ is now arguing, there is no EU law requiring this information to be handed over for civil cases.
For corporations, the only recourse is said to be pressuring politicians for changes to national laws, and even then there is a need to weigh the importance of privacy versus a desire to control intellectual property. Both rights are fundamental, the Court claims.
The ruling could have far-reaching legal implications, as European decisions on file sharing have typically remained local affairs. In July a Belgian court asked an ISP to block illegal downloads, while in August, a German court refused to force ISPs to share customer identities with record labels.
Despite an apparent blow to their strategies, entertainment trade groups such as the IFPI are still claiming victory. "The judgment means that music rights owners can still take civil actions to enforce their rights," says IFPI head John Kennedy, "and it has sent out a clear signal that [EU] member states have to get the right balance between privacy and enforcement of intellectual property rights and that intellectual property rights can neither be ignored nor neglected."