EU: ISPs don't have to disclose subscriber names

A ruling by the top court in the European Union deals another blow to the recording industry's efforts to fight the distribution of copyrighted recordings through file-sharing networks.

The bad legal news continues for the recording industry.

After yesterday's ruling that the RIAA owes an Oklahoma woman nearly $70,000 in attorneys' fees, the European Union's top court today said that European ISPs are not required to disclose the names of subscribers whose IP addresses have allegedly been linked to illegal activity on file-sharing networks.

In the case at issue, a group of Spanish music producers filed a legal complaint about Spanish ISP Telefonica, which refused turn over IP addresses of apparent Kazaa users. Telefonica maintained that Spanish law required it to turn over these addresses only in criminal cases or matters of national security. The Spanish court overseeing the case asked for an opinion from the European Court of Justice, which essentially backed Telefonica, saying that this information did not need to be turned over in civil cases.

This opinion's not a legally binding ruling, but if the Spanish court accepts the opinion and rules accordingly, this could form the basis for similar decisions throughout the EU. This would mean that recording industry representatives would either have to convince criminal investigators--the police--to go after file-traders (unlikely), or would have to come up with some other technical method (possible) without violating the EU's stringent privacy laws (very difficult).

Meanwhile, in the U.S., the RIAA continues to spend a lot of money to get very little in return.

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