Friday, September 10, 2010

Supreme Court rules that IP addresses are personal data in file-sharing case

The Supreme Court of Switzerland ruled that IP addresses constitute as personal data in an 8 September 2010 case involving a company, Logistep AG, which had collected, without consent, the IP addresses of internet users who were illegally downloading copyrighted materials using peer-to-peer software. The company – which then passed on the details of those users to copyright holders for a fee - was held to have violated the Swiss Data Protection Act.

Logistep AG had developed software in 2008 to research which works were being offered online on peer-to-peer networks without the author's consent. Whenever one of these works was downloaded illegally, the software would record and store the data relating to the download. This data was then sold to members of music and film industries interested in protecting their intellectual property, who could identify the owners of the internet connection used for the download and claim compensation for copyright violation.

The Court ruled that, while the interest of Logistep AG to reduce copyright infringement was valid, it did not override or justify the infringement into personal privacy. The method was deemed to have ‘significant interference in the private sphere of each user’, which the state is obliged to protect. Logistep AG must now discontinue all of its activities.

The Swiss Data Protection Authority filed the case at the Supreme Court, after the Federal Administrative Tribunal found in Logistep AG’s favour, ruled that the goal to hunt down those guilty of internet piracy did not require the consent of users.

Copyright (C) 2010 Data Guidance

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