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ECJ finds no law preventing Sweden ISPs from turning over user data

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) [official website] found [judgment] Thursday that Sweden has no law preventing Swedish internet service providers (ISPs) from disclosing user data of individuals suspected of pirating copyrighted material. Five book publishers brought suit against Swedish ISP ePhone [official website, in Swedish] for its refusal to to comply with a court order to hand over the user data of suspected pirates [CNET report] to the publishers under Sweden's 2009 Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Directive (IPRED) [Directive 2004/48/EC, PDF]. IPRED requires member states to "provide for the measures, procedures and remedies necessary to ensure the enforcement of the intellectual property rights covered by this Directive" as long as the remedies are "fair and equitable" or are "unnecessarily complicated or costly, or entail unreasonable time-limits or unwarranted delays." The Swedish Supreme Court [official website, in Swedish] referred the case to the ECJ, which stressed that user data could only be turned over for the purpose of enforcing copyrights:

[I]t must be emphasised that the fundamental rights concerning the protection of personal data and privacy, on the one hand, and those concerning the protection of intellectual property, on the other hand, must receive equal protection. Therefore, copyright holders must not be favoured, by allowing them to make use of personal data which have been legally collected or retained for purposes not germane to the protection of their rights. The collection and use of said data for such purposes in compliance with EU law concerning the protection of personal data would require the prior adoption of detailed provisions by the national legislature.
The case has been returned to the Swedish Supreme Court, where the ECJ's ruling that Swedish law does not prevent ISPs from turning over user data is expected to pave the way for a ruling that ePhone must turn over user data of suspected pirates to the publishers and other rightsholders of pirated material.

The tension between the rights of copyright holders and file-sharers has been substantial in Sweden. In February the Swedish Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal [JURIST report] of the convictions of Fredrik Neji, Peter Sunde and Carl Lundstroem for abetting copyright infringement [JURIST report] for their involvement in running The Pirate Bay [website], a file-sharing website. In July 2009 several Hollywood production companies filed suit [JURIST report] in Sweden against the operators of The Pirate Bay, seeking an injunction. The US companies, including Disney, Universal and Columbia Pictures, filed a writ to sue in the Stockholm District Court, requesting that the court order the owners to cease and desist operations. In August 2006 the Swedish Pirate Party [party website, in Swedish] was formed [TorrentFreak report] with the goal of legalizing file-sharing and "spreading culture and knowledge."

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