Spanish Court Throws Out Copyright Trolling Case

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Spanish ISP Euskaltel has welcomed a decision by a court to throw out a copyright trolling case against one of its customers. The Commercial Court No. 2 of Bilbao dismissed the case due to insufficient evidence supporting a claim for damages. Meanwhile, Euskaltel has now reported a third copyright troll to Spain's data protection agency for alleged privacy breaches.

Spanish ISP Euskaltel is one of the few ISPs in the world to be putting up a fight against so-called copyright trolls.

These mostly movie-related companies obtain the IP addresses of computers said to be participating in BitTorrent swarms and then apply to the courts to force related ISPs to hand over their customers’ data for further action.

This usually takes the form of “pay-up-or-else” letters, demanding hundreds or even thousands of euros or dollars, to make supposed lawsuits go away. In Spain, however, things aren’t going as planned.

Euskaltel reports that the Commercial Court No. 2 of Bilbao has dismissed demands by producer She Fighter Ltd against a customer alleged to have downloaded and shared the movie Lady Bloodfight.

According to a detailed summary of the case, success rested on three elements: the existence of unlawful action, showing damages, and the causal relationship between the damages and the unlawful action. In respect of the damages element, the rightsholder opted for a “hypothetical royalty” but failed to provide evidence to justify why 150 euros was demanded. This is what caused the case to fail.

“This is one of the first decisions in the trials against those affected after being reported by various film producers for what they considered ‘illegal downloading of movies on P2P networks’,” Euskaltel said in a statement.

The ruling, which was handed down June 25, denies the producer an opportunity to appeal and requires it to pay the full costs of the process.

While the ISP has welcomed the decision, the battle against copyright trolls appears to be heating up in other areas of the country. Euskaltel is just one of the ISPs being targeted by movie companies and courts in other areas of the country have received similar requests.

“The fact that the first people affected have been clients of Euskaltel, is due to the fact that the Bilbao Courts – the headquarters of the Basque operator – have been the first in the State to meet and resolve these demands, for reasons of distribution and work management, while the Madrid courts – which deal with the demands of the clients of the operators based in the capital of Spain – are still in a preliminary phase of the process,” the ISP explained.

Meanwhile, Euskaltel says it will continue to fight to protect its customers’ rights. As reported last month, the ISP reported copyright troll Venice PI to Spain’s data protection agency (AEPD) after being forced by a court to hand over the personal details of subscribers said to have downloaded the Bruce Willis movie Once Upon a Time in Venice.

The ISP said that Venice PI’s use of that data, which involved contacting subscribers with demands to pay a 150 euro settlement, constituted a breach of Spain’s Data Protection regulations. According to Euskaltel, the movie outfit was not “free to decide what to do with the data” once it had obtained it.

In addition to the earlier Venice PI referral to the AEPD, Euskaltel says that on June 7 it referred Reliance Entertainment Productions LLC to the data protection watchdog. Then, just three days later, it filed a similar complaint against Wind River Production LLC, highlighting potential abuses of customer data.

“In the latter complaint, in addition to asking the AEPD to analyze the reported facts to verify whether the alleged administrative violations have incurred, the AEPD has also been requested to adopt provisional measures, consisting of ordering the production company to stop sending more letters to users,” Euskaltel says.

“In this complaint, as in the two previous ones, the possible criminal responsibility which the producers may have incurred has been placed on the table,” the ISP concludes.

Euskaltel has published advice to customers being targeted by copyright trolls, including that they should report potential data protection abuses to the authorities.


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