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EU ruling bans ISPs from revealing identities

The European Court of Justice (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab), two separate rulings in 2007, in Belgium and in Germany showed that European countries tend to have different attitudes towards file sharing.

Désiré Athow

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.