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EU court rules YouTube doesn’t have to hand over IP addresses of copyright infringers

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YouTube and other online platforms are not obligated to provide the IP addresses, emails, or telephone numbers of persons accused of piracy when requested by the copyright holders in Europe. The EU court made that ruling of Justice on July 9. According to the court, the term “address” in copyright laws only refers to physical or postal addresses and not an IP address.

A case of Constantin Film against YouTube led to this ruling. Between 2013 and 2014, two movies owned by Constantin Film, Parker, and Scary Movie 5, were uploaded on YouTube by three users. By the time owner of the films noticed, the videos already had thousands of views. Therefore, Constantin Film, which is based in Germany, decided to sue.

But to sue, the film company had to get the users’ personal information. However, the Google-owned video-sharing platform refused to provide personal information, including IPs, emails, and phone numbers, of the copyright infringers.

So, Constantin Film took YouTube to court. The case first landed in the Frankfurt District Court, which sided with the video platform. Then it went to a higher court, which ruled that YouTube should provide the email addresses, but not phone numbers and IPs.

Since the ruling was unacceptable to both parties, the case went further up to the Federal Court of Justice in Germany. This court referred the case to the EU Court of Justice to get a more precise definition of the phrase “address” in the EU Copyright Directive’s Article 8.

On Thursday, the EU Court of Justice ruled in favor of YouTube and Google.

“It follows that, pursuant to Article 8 of Directive 2004/48, the Member States must ensure that the competent courts may, in a situation such as that at issue in the main proceedings, order the operator of an online platform to provide the names and addresses of any person referred to in paragraph 2(a) of that article who has uploaded a film onto that platform without the copyright holder’s consent,” the ruling’s summary read.

The ruling further explained, “As regards, in the first place, the usual meaning of the term ‘address’, it should be noted, as the Advocate General observed in points 30 and 33 of his Opinion, that, in everyday language, it covers only the postal address, that is to say, the place of a given person’s permanent address or habitual residence.”

According to the ruling, the term “address” in the Copyright Directive refers to “permanent address” or “habitual residence” and does not include the email addresses, telephone numbers, or IP addresses. The court noted that the provision provided by the Copyright Directive should uphold the copyright holders’ right to information as well as protect the personal data of users.

However, the EU court did not expressly prohibit the disclosure of copyright infringers’ information

“The Court nevertheless stated that the Member States have the option to grant holders of intellectual property rights the right to receive fuller information, provided, however, that a fair balance is struck between the various fundamental rights involved and compliance with the other general principles of EU law, such as the principle of proportionality.”
Now that the EU Court of Justice has clearly defined “address,” the case can go back to Germany.

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