EU protects downloader privacy

Record labels and film studios cannot demand that telecom companies hand over the names and addresses of people suspected of breaking European copyright rules by swapping illegal downloads, the EU’s top court has ruled. But EU nations could introduce rules to oblige companies to hand over personal data in similar cases.

The court upheld Spain's Telefónica's right to refuse to hand over information that would identify who had used peer-to-peer file-sharing tool KaZaA to distribute copyrighted material owned by Promusicae, a Spanish nonprofit group of film and music producers. EU law did not require governments to protect copyright by forcing companies to disclose personal data in civil legal actions, the Luxembourg-based court ruled.

They could draft national rules to change this but they will then have to balance the right to privacy against property rights and “cannot however affect the requirements of (protecting) personal data,” according to a court statement.

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