German Court Decision Hands Big Win to File-Sharers

The Federal Constitutional Court in Germany has ruled that the identities of file-sharers must remain private and can no longer be revealed to media companies who accuse them of copyright infringement. In future, only those accused of 'heavy' crimes such as murder, child pornography or kidnapping will be revealed.

Germany has some of the toughest copyright laws and it’s thought that as many as 200,000 German file-sharers have had their identities revealed to entertainment and media companies, so that they may be threatened with legal action.

According to Christian Solmecke, a lawyer defending file-sharers in Germany, the system typically operated like this: “Based on the data provided by Logistep and other P2P tracking enterprises, an offense is reported. The public prosecution service is obliged to investigate because a copyright infringement is a criminal offense in Germany.” This would then force an ISP to hand over the identity of an alleged file-sharer and they would be threatened to pay up – or else.

Not any more.

In what could be a landmark victory for file-sharers, the Federal Constitutional Court (FCC) in Germany has just issued a ruling. With it comes a new level of privacy to protect personal data and communications and, fortunately for file-sharers, this enhanced privacy is good news for them.

No longer will it be possible for media companies to force ISPs to give up the identities of its subscribers who they accuse of copyright infringement, which will undoubtedly be a huge relief to the ISPs too. After all, these are the ISPs biggest customers we’re talking about. For Germany at least, it seems like 3-strikes-and-you’re-out schemes, could’ve been ruled out.

In future, it will only be possible to get an identity behind an IP address if dealing with a ‘heavy’ crime, such as terrorism, murder, child pornography or kidnapping.

A German law student told TorrentFreak: “At the moment, I cant imagine any realistic way file-sharers can be caught. It’s possible lobby groups will try to make file-sharing count as a ‘heavy crime’, but I doubt they will have much luck. The German criminal justice judicial system is quite overextended, and the people are overworked. Public prosecutors and judges alike were quite pissed off that they had to invest time in the many file-sharing cases, which were obviously irrelevant in a criminal law sense. The public interest to put file sharers in prison is simply not there.”

This ruling will stand for 6 months, after that, the main decision will be made final. The common consensus among legal commentators is that the Federal Constitutional Court is extremely unlikely to change their decision on this matter.

The privacy issue is becoming a hot topic in the file-sharing world. Just this week, anti-piracy company Logistep was told that it had been acting illegally by spying on Italian file-sharers.

‘The European Right to Pirate in Private’ – who would’ve thought it?

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