IP Address Fail: ISP Doesn’t Have to Hand ‘Pirates’ Details to Copyright Trolls

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A Swedish ISP has landed an interesting win against a UK-based company acting for international copyright trolls. In 2016, Tele2 was ordered to hand over the personal details of customers behind around 240 IP addresses after they were accused of movie piracy. Tele2 appealed, claiming it doesn't hold the data, and now a court has ruled in the ISP's favor.

On October 27, 2016, UK-based Copyright Management Services (CMS) filed a case against Sweden-based ISP, Tele2.

CMS, run by Patrick Achache of German-based anti-piracy outfit MaverickEye (which in turn is deeply involved with infamous copyright troll outfit Guardaley), claimed that Tele2 customers had infringed its clients’ copyrights on the movies Cell and IT by sharing them via BitTorrent.

Since Tele2 had the personal details of the customers behind those IP addresses, CMS asked the Patent and Market Court to prevent the ISP from deleting the data before it could be handed over. Once in its possession, CMS would carry out the usual process of writing to customers and demanding cash settlements to make supposed lawsuits go away.

Tele2 complained that it could not hand over the details of customers using NAT addresses since it simply doesn’t hold that information. The ISP also said it could not hand over details of customers if IP address information had previously been deleted.

Taking these objections into consideration, in November 2017 the Court approved an interim order in respect of the remaining IP addresses. But there were significant problems which led the ISP to appeal.

According to tests carried out by Tele2, many of the IP addresses in the case did not relate to Sweden or indeed Tele2. In fact, some IP addresses belonged to foreign companies or mere affiliates of the ISP.

“Tele2 thus lacks the actual ability to provide information regarding a large part of the IP addresses covered by the submission,” the Court of Appeal noted in a decision published this week.

The problem appears to lie with the way the MaverickEye monitoring system attributed monitored IP addresses to Tele2.

The Court notes that the company relied on the RIPE Database which stated that the IP addresses in question were allocated to the “geographic area of Sweden”. According to Tele2, however, that wasn’t the case and as such, it had no information to hand over.

CMS, on the other hand, maintained that according to RIPE’s records, Tele2 was indeed the controller of the IP addresses in question so must hand over the information as requested.

While the Patent and Market Court said that Tele2 didn’t object to the MaverickEye monitoring software in terms of the data it collects on file-sharers, it noted that CMS had failed to initiate an investigation in respect of the IP addresses allegedly not belonging to Tele2.

“CMS has not invoked any investigation showing how the identification of the IP addresses in question is made in this case or who at Maverickeye UG was responsible for this,” the Court writes.

“Nor did CMS use the opportunity to hear representatives of Tele2 or others with Tele2 in mind to discover if the company has access to any of the current IP addresses and, if so, which.”

Considering the above, the Court notes that Tele2’s statement, that it doesn’t have access to the data, must stand.

“In these circumstances, CMS, against Tele2’s appeal, has not shown that Tele2 holds the information requested by the disclosure order. CMS’ application for a disclosure order should therefore be rejected,” the Court concludes.

The decision cannot be appealed so Copyright Management Services won’t get its hands on the personal details of the people behind the IP addresses, at least through this process.

The decision (Swedish, pdf)

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