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EU court rules identity of file sharers should be protected in civil suits

[JURIST] The European Court of Justice [official website] Tuesday ruled [judgment; press release, PDF] against Promusicae [trade website], a Spanish music industry coalition, finding that telecommunication companies have no duty to disclose the names and addresses of people suspected of engaging in illegal file sharing. A lower Spanish court had asked the European Court of Justice to issue an opinion on whether EU law required member states to impose such an obligation. The court held Tuesday that European Union directives contained no such obligation in the context of civil proceedings, but also found that EU law did not preclude member states from imposing such an obligation. Under Spanish law [PDF text, in Spanish], the obligatory disclosure of such personal information sought by the nonprofit group is permitted only in a criminal investigation, or if necessary for national security.

Last July, European Court of Justice Advocate General Juliane Kokott [official profile] told the European Court of Justice in an advisory opinion [text, in Spanish; JURIST report] that EU governments should resist disclosing Internet user information sought by copyright industry groups for civil lawsuits. Promusicae had filed a lawsuit against Spanish Internet service provider Telefonica (corporate website] to obtain customer information linked to IP addresses that Promusicae suspected were involved in illegal peer-to-peer music sharing. AP has more.

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