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Belgian ISP Telenet has been ordered to hand over data on BitTorrent users

The Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) has ruled that Internet Service Providers can be forced to hand over IPs, names, and postal addresses to intellectual property rights holders or third parties. The request for such information, however, must meet certain conditions.

In its official announcement on June 17, the ECJ stated that the purpose of this is to allow action for damages. The ECJ-level decision was made in a case brought on by Mircom International Content Management Consulting Limited (Mircom) that originally requested information against broadband service provider Telenet BVBA before the Companies Court in Antwerp, Belgium.

Mircom asked for Telenet to make identification data of its customers available in order to find out which of the service’s customers had allegedly shared content such as movies in Mircom’s catalog via a BitTorrent-powered (P2P) protocol.

The Belgian court asked the ECJ to clarify “the lawfulness, first, of the way in which the customers’ IP addresses have been collected by Mircom and, second, of the communication of the data requested by Mircom from Telenet.”

Leaving the door open for more aggressive national legislation

In answering the question about lawfulness, the ECJ declares that the EU law does not preclude the systematic registration by IP rights holder or a third party they hired of IP addresses of P2P network users. The ECJ did, however, rule that “initiatives and requests in that regard must be justified, proportionate, not abusive and provided for by a national legislative measure which limits the scope of rights and obligations under EU law.”

The ECJ ruled that its judgment “does not impose an obligation on a company such as Telenet to communicate personal data to private individuals in order to be able to bring proceedings before the civil courts for copyright infringements.” However, the court also ruled that EU law allows Member States to impose such an obligation.