EU court: Telecoms companies do not have to hand over file sharer details

Telecoms companies do not have to give copyright holders the names and addresses of people suspected of swapping illegal music downloads, the EU's top court ruled Tuesday. EU law does not require governments to protect copyright by handing over personal data on Internet traffic in civil prosecutions, the European Court of Justice said - although EU nations could bring in such a rule if they wanted to. The court was ruling on a complaint made by Promusicae, a Spanish nonprofit group of music and film producers, which said Spanish telecoms company Telefonica SA should have handed over the names and addresses linked to Internet protocol, or IP, addresses that it believes uses the peer-to-peer file-sharing tool KaZaA to illegally distribute intellectual property owned by Promusicae. Telefonica claimed Spanish law only allows them to share personal data for criminal prosecutions or matters of public security and national defense. The court said, however, that EU governments dealing with similar cases would need to balance the need to protect privacy on one hand and property rights on the other.