European Union Court Mixed Ruling on File Sharing

Tuesday a top European Union court, based in Luxembourg, handed down a mixed decision to the recording and film industries by refusing to force telecommunications companies to supply names and addresses of suspected file sharers of copyrighted material, but kept the door open for the industries to pursue civil actions against illegal file sharers. The decision is being seen as an impetus for the European courts to begin to set rules that would strike a balance between privacy rights and intellectual property rights.
 The Luxembourg court denied the Spanish film and music trade group Promusicae access to the personal data and sided with Spain’s telecommunication giant Telefonica SA and its refusal to reveal the identities of file sharers suspected of disseminating copyrighted material through the program Kazaa, backing up a Spanish court’s decision after it ruled that personal data can only be revealed in court proceedings involving criminal prosecutions and/or national or public security.While the court did state that privacy rights and the rights of intellectual property holders are both fundamental rights, the current wave of contradicting decisions across Europe have the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry and the European affiliate organization of the Motion Picture Association pushing for some clarity from the European Union courts in their campaigns to put a stop to the illegal file sharing that has taken a sizable monetary bite from both industries.

The court’s decision to back up the telecommunications companies’ rights to keep personal data private did come with a ray of hope as it left open the possibility for more civil lawsuits regarding intellectual copyright infringement and the pursuit of compensation by the film and music industries.

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