ISPs Have to Identify Alleged Pirates, EU Court Rules

A dispute over whether a Swedish ISP can be forced to hand over the details of one its subscribers to an anti-piracy group has just received its long-awaited ruling from the Europe's highest court. A few moments ago the ECJ announced that there are no EU barriers which prevent the ISP handing over its customers' private details to copyright holders.

Not long after Sweden’s controversial IPRED legislation became law in 2009, five book publishers handed a request for information to a local court.

The rightsholders, represented by anti-piracy group Antipiratbyrån, wanted to force local ISP ePhone to hand over the personal details of a subscriber who allegedly stored more than 2000 audio books on his server, 27 of which breached the publishers’ copyrights.

In June that year the court ordered ePhone to provide the information but the ISP felt it would be wrong to comply, and instead took their case to the Court of Appeal. The ruling of the lower court was overturned on appeal and the case was sent to the Sweden’s highest court.

In the event even the Supreme Court couldn’t decide and it in turn forwarded the case to the European Court of Justice. A few moments ago the ECJ released its decision, one that is sure to please rightsholders.

The ECJ decided that there are no EU barriers which stop ePhone being ordered to provide the information as requested by Antipiratbyrån and the book publishers. The Court said that Swedish law strikes an appropriate balance between the rights of copyright holders and citizens’ rights to privacy.

Having obtained the decision from the ECJ, the case will now head back to Sweden’s Supreme Court.

“We feel very satisfied with this judgment. It is extremely important that we have received this message,” said Kristina Ahlinder, president of the Publishers’ Association.

“The important next step is that the Supreme Court gives us the authority, that the evidence is sufficient and that we have the right to share this information. The illegal publication that has occurred from this IP address is comprehensive,” Ahlinder added

If Sweden’s Supreme Court indeed decides that ePhone must hand over the information, it is not clear if the publishers are even ready to continue with a civil case against the alleged infringer. But of course, other entities such as the music and movie industries have been watching closely too, since it clarifies their position going forward. IFPI, among others, are welcoming the ruling.

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