The news that European Internet Service Providers did not have to give up names of customers to members of the Music Industry and other organizations in civil cases hit the Internet by storm.
Everyone seemed to think that this was a major victory for consumer rights. It probably is in some countries but let me explain how this is easily circumvented, at least in Germany.
German Internet Service Providers did not give out their customer names in civil cases even before the ruling of the EU court.
Copyright infringement is however a criminal offense in Germany which means that the companies file a criminal lawsuit, the State is investigation, getting information about the IP in question and the companies simply take a look into the documents to find out the real name and contact information about that person.
The European Court of Justice has ruled on a dispute between Spanish music rights holders association Promusicae and Spain's top telecoms operator Telefonica over Telefonica's Internet clients who shared copyright material on the Web.
Telefonica argued 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. But the court said: '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.' I wonder if this ruling will have any effect on other cases in other countries."
After they get the name they file a civil case and the criminal lawsuit is normally closed because of minor offenses. With the name however they can - and do - sue the user whose IP they detected.
Is copyright infringement a civil or criminal offense in your country?
Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.