Copyright holders trying to fight digital piracy have suffered a legal blow with a ruling by the EU’s top court that European Union countries can refuse to disclose names of file sharers on the Internet in civil cases. A Spanish music rights holders association, Promusicae, had disputed the argument of Spain’s top telecoms operator, Telefonica.
Telefonica said that, under a national law based on EU rules, it only had to disclose the name of an Internet subscriber for criminal actions, not civil ones. The European Court of Justice statement supported this.
Promusicae wanted names of Internet clients who shared copyright material on the Web, so it could start civil proceedings against them.
Civil cases tend to be less costly than criminal cases, which typically require a higher burden of proof.
The court said EU rules do not exclude countries legislating to require disclosure of personal data in the context of civil suits, but it is not an obligation.
Illegal downloading continues to take a bite out of the recording industry’s profits, as it seeks to boost online revenue to offset falling CD sales.