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A DMCA-style system could be coming to Europe

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There are some worrying signs that something akin to the loathed US Digital Millennium Copyright Act might be coming to Europe. At least, that is, to the 27-member-states of the European Union (EU).

We can glean this from a press release by the Luxembourg-based Court of Justice of the EU, that said that, “when a film is unlawfully uploaded onto an online platform, such as YouTube, the rightsholder may, under the directive on the enforcement of intellectual property rights, require the operator to provide only the postal address of the user concerned, but not his or her email, IP address or telephone number.”

The press release concerned a judgment in the (German) Constantin Film Verleih case, that reiterated that the EU directive only covers disclosure of postal addresses of suspected copyright infringers.

The court cites two films distributed by Verleih that have been apparently uploaded on YouTube without the rights holder’s permission – and looks into what the term of an EU directive regulating the matter of copyright and its infringement means when it speaks about “addresses.”

Apparently – that’s only physical, postal addresses, rather than IP or email, etc., ones. Remind yourself of the recent ruling on that issue here.

But here, EU’s essential fragmentation comes into play, as the press release notes the Directive 2004/48 at the same time allows EU member-states “the option to grant holders of intellectual property rights to receive fuller information” – as long as balance is still maintained between their right to copyright, and everybody else’s right to protection of personal data.

It’s a complicated, not to mention complex system to navigate, that in effect can easily mean different things to different member-states, if rules such as these happen to be interpreted by a skilled national government.

It would appear that since the 2004 directive, a law has been passed in the EU that allows rights holders to subpoena the identity (beyond their postal addresses) of those they see as infringing on their rights.

What’s new and remarkable here is that it is now clear the subpoenas for alleged infringers’ addresses are legal and could eventually be upheld in the EU Court of Justice.

This revelation is precedential and will likely see a surge in infringement lawsuits in the EU.

It’s not clear though, that copyright infringement notices and lawsuits will take off in Europe quite as they have done in the US, and this may be due to the fact they may not be as monetarily lucrative in Europe as they are in the US.

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