Sat, Jun. 14, 2008

IP Address for Private Suitors

CK - Washington.   The release of IP addresses by ISPs to private parties may be technically useless but in Germany, it can violate constitutional protections afforded Internet users. A May 21, 2008 order from the Frankenthal district court disallows the use of an IP address as evidence in a copyright dispute. The private party had obtained contact data of the user to whom an ISP supposedly had assigned the address, by way of filing a criminal complaint and subsequently reviewing the results of an investigation conducted by the D.A.

Lacking a discovery process in German law, the criminal avenue serves as the customary path for music, software and movie companies to the perceived identity of violators of copyrighted material they market. While there is ample technical evidence in the United States that IP addresses are unreliable as evidence in litigation, marketers of copyrighted assets in Germany rely on IP addresses for their criminal and civil prosecutions.

In February 2008, the Constitutional Supreme Court had invented a new constitutional right to informational self-determination. In March, it limited to serious crimes the release of contact information based on collected Internet traffic data, case number 1 BvR 256/08. The Frankenthal court applied the guidelines to the copyright matter at hand which involved allegations of copyright violations through the use of Internet services.

Many commenters question the applicability of the Supreme Court guidelines to the instant case, case number 6 O 156/08, and believe the order will not resonate in similar proceedings. Much of the discussion turns on the data protection statute and the distinctions for preserving and using data such as IP addresses.

In turn, such data may be classified in different categories and for various purposes, none of which have been reconciled by courts and commenters into clear rules, while the federal legislators keep fiddling with the statutes governing the Internet. For example, the attorney generals of the states on June 12, 2008 called for direct access of copyright owners to ISP and customer data, Heise reports.

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