A pair of decisions by the Swedish Supreme Court means that it will now become somewhat easier for rightsholders to identify file-sharers. The cases, which involve the identities of the administrator of a BitTorrent tracker and an alleged book pirate, have been dragging on since 2009. They have both now ended with the Supreme Court ruling that two ISPs will have to hand over identifying information under Sweden’s IPRED legislation.
Should rightsholders in the movie, music and publishing industries be able to obtain the personal details of alleged file-sharers from ISPs in order to pursue civil copyright cases against them?
That answer to that question has been a long time coming and has its roots in two cases dating back more than three years.
In the first case, initiated following the 2009 introduction of the IPRED legislation in Sweden, five book publishers delivered a request to a district court.
Led by anti-piracy group Antipiratbyrån, the publishers wanted to force the ISP Ephone to provide the personal details of one of their subscribers who they claim uploaded 2000 audio books to a server, 27 of which in breach of copyright.
In June 2009 the district court ordered Ephone to hand over the information to Antipiratbyrån. The ISP objected, arguing that the request was not in line with the data retention directive, and took the case to the Court of Appeal. The ruling of the district court was eventually overturned and the case was sent to Sweden’s Supreme Court for consideration.
The Supreme Court sought the advice of the European Court of Justice which responded in April 2012 stating that the data retention directive does not preclude the handing over of information on alleged infringers in civil cases as long as certain conditions are met (detailed analysis here).
The case went back to Sweden’s Supreme Court for its decision, one that would affect the privacy of another individual in a second important case. He or she is the alleged administrator of the SweTorrents BitTorrent tracker and was also targeted under IPRED.
That case was also initiated in 2009 just after IPRED kicked in. Four movie studios applied to the Södertörn District Court in an attempt to force ISP TeliaSonera to hand over the personal details of the individual.
In December that year the district court said that TeliaSonera must hand over the name and address of the SweTorrents operator to anti-piracy groups Antipiratbyrån and Rättighetsalliansen (Rights Alliance). Like Ephone before it, TeliaSonero was concerned over the disclosure and took the case to the Court of Appeal, but the attempt was unsuccessful and the earlier district court ruling stood.
Refusing to accept defeat TeliaSonero asked the Supreme Court to hear the case. However, the Supreme Court already had the Ephone matter to deal with and the decision there would affect the SweTorrents case.
Two days before Christmas 2012, the Supreme Court decided that the book publishers in the so-called “Bonnier Audio” case did have the right to obtain the personal details of the individual who had stored the 2000 audio books on his server.
Whether it will be possible to find the individual remains unclear. During the case Ephone went bankrupt and of course it has dragged on for such a long time further evidence will probably be long gone. Nevertheless, the publishers say the ruling will still prove useful.
Pia Janne Nyberg, a lawyer at the Swedish Publishers’ Association, said that the ruling will be used to obtain the personal details of other people sharing content online so they may be sent warning letters. At this point it is unclear if other rightsholders will chose to take things further.
With the ruling on EPhone handed down, the Supreme Court announced yesterday that it had rejected TeliaSonera’s request to have their case heard.
“The Court of Appeal’s decision stands. The decision means that TeliaSonera needs to give out the information about who was the registered user of the illegal file sharing site SweTorrents,” Rättighetsalliansen lawyer Sara Lindbäck told TorrentFreak.
“The legal system is catching up. In recent months there have been several verdicts from the courts against copyright infringers. We will now take some time and see what the next step will be,” Lindbäck concludes.