It’s a major decision, and one that could have lasting reverberations. On Tuesday, according to ZDNet, the European Courtof Justice ruled that Internet service providers don’t have to release the names of file-sharers in civil cases. It all stemmed from a court battle between Spanish ISP Telefonica and Promusicae, which handles music rights in the country. Promusicae had taken Telefonica to court in Spain,asking for the names and addresses of illegal file-sharers so they could launch civil actions. However, Telefonica argued that they should only have to release that information in criminal cases. Without making a decision, the Spanish courts then went to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for clarification on the law. In a statement, the ECJ noted the necessity for a balancebetween the protection of personal data and the protection of copyright. "The ECJ notes that the exceptions permitted by the directives on the protection of personal data include themeasures necessary for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. As the directive on privacy and electronic communications does not specify the rights and freedoms concerned by thatexception, it must be interpreted as expressing the European Community legislature’s intention not to exclude from its scope the protection of the right to property or situations in which authorsseek to obtain that protection in civil proceedings." It did, however, leave the door open for the possibility of personal data being released in some civil cases. The ruling comes asseveral countries have hinted at harsher looks at file-sharers.
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