Tue, May. 17, 2005

Musical Fishing Expedition

CK - Washington.   A purported copyright owner of musical titles requested, with an emergency petition, from an internet access provider detailed contact information of its customer who operates an FTP server via a domain name and a dynamically provided IP address. The access provider refused, the lower court court granted the petition, and the provider appealed it.

On April 28, 2005, the Hanseatic Appellate Court of Hamburg ruled that the music distributor has no tenable claim to such information. Factually, the petitioner had failed to establish its ownership in the music titles that may have been made accessible to downloads by third parties. Legally, the right to disclosure of customer information from access providers is limited to criminal investigations. The order of the lower court would have exposed the access provider to a criminal investigation under data protection laws.

The court of appeals found that the petitioner had failed to meet its burden of proof in several ways, but even if it had not, it would have lacked a basis under copyright law or the civil code to demand the customer data. The petitioner and the lower court misconstrued anti-piracy provisions that govern purveyors of physical goods, not alleged distributors of intangibles. A claim against the access provider for damages may exist on the basis of a claim that it contributed to the potential violations of copyright law but the facts of the case do not support a right to disclosure of data.

IT-blawg notes the decision is in line with a Frankfurt appellate ruling of January 25, 2005, docket number 11 U 51/04.

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