EU ruling bans ISPs from revealing identities

The European Court of Justice has ruled that Telecom firms that are operate in Europe are not bound to hand over the details and private data of those accused of indulging in illegal file sharing, arguing that the ISPs only have to disclose the users' identities in a criminal case - like a terrorist plot or in a murder investigation - and not in civil litigations.

The court said in a statement that "Community law does not require the member states, in order to ensure the effective protection of copyright, to lay down an obligation to disclose personal data in the context of civil proceedings"

The ruling was made during a confrontation between Spanish music rights holders' body Promusicae and Telefonica, with the former wanting the Internet Service Provider - who happens to own O2 and Be - to disclose the identities of file sharers through their IP addresses.

The Spanish decision though does not apply to other European countries but stressed that a right balance has to be found between the need to protect Copyright holders' rights and the need to protect an individual's rights to privacy.

According to Electronista, two separate rulings in 2007, in Belgium and in Germany showed that European countries tend to have different attitudes towards file sharing.