European file-sharers were given a huge legal boost today when the Advocate General to the European Court of Justice declared that EU law does not allow Internet Service Providers to be forced to reveal the personal details of people accused of file sharing.
According to Juliane Kokott, Advocate General to the European Court of Justice, anti-piracy and copyright enforcement groups may not be able to demand that ISP’s hand over the names and addresses of those they accuse of file-sharing.
Kokott, top legal adviser to the European Union’s highest Court said that while it is a requirement for ISP’s to divulge personal details in criminal cases, the law does not have the power to force them to disclose the same in a civil case. In Europe, the personal, non-commerical sharing of copyright works is a civil issue.
The statement was issued to help judges come to a decision in the case involving Promusicae – a Spanish music industry organisation – and Telefonica, Spain’s biggest ISP. Promusicae sued Telefonica after they refused to reveal the identities of some of its customers who were accused of swapping copyright music using the file-sharing software, KaZaA. If it had been successful, Promusicae would have used the information to take legal action against those it accuses of sharing music to which it holds the rights.
Telefonica appears to have successfully argued that the law only required it to reveal the identities of those accused of a criminal offense and that sharing of music was a civil issue.
Juliane Kokott’s advice will be reviewed by the judges and a ruling will be issued later on in the year. According to a report, the judges ‘follow their advisers opinions about 80% of the time.’
Earlier this year, UK law firm Davenport Lyons successfully obtained the identities of hundreds of people it claimed had infringed its client’s copyrights by sharing the game Dream Pinball. It remains to be seen if today’s legal advice will affect those who have already had their details handed over.