Country’s Supreme Court says Logistep AG’s collection of IP addresses of suspected file-sharers for sale to copyright holders to pursue copyright infringement claims violates the country’s Privacy Act, and that individuals’ right to privacy may only be revoked in the context of criminal proceedings.
One of the main tools at copyright holders’ disposal in the war against illegal file-sharing has long been anti-P2P groups like Swiss-based Logistep AG that monitor P2P networks and services for signs of infringement and collect the IP addresses of suspected infringers.
The practice has been criticized not only for the fact that it can lead to false positives, but in a closely watched court case in Switzerland, for the fact that snooping on people and reporting their IP addresses to third parties is a violation of that country’s Privacy Act.
Switzerland’s Supreme Court ruled yesterday that anti-P2P firm Logistep AG unlawfully collected personal information on suspected file-sharers and sold it to copyright holders in their fight against online infringement.
It said that IP addresses are protected under the country’s rather stringent privacy protection laws, especially if they are being gathered for use in criminal proceedings.
The case began in earnest back at the start of 2008 when the country’s Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner (FDPIC) Hanspeter Thuer ordered Logistep AG to quit gathering IP addresses of suspected file-sharers, determining that the Legislature had created no legal basis for it.
A lower court sided with Logistep AG last May, but this ruling by the country’s High Court reverses that decision.
“The FDPIC welcomes today’s federal court ruling in matters Logistep,” reads an FDPIC press release.
“According to today’s ruling, the Federal Court in Lausanne has determined IP addresses are uniquely personal data, and they will be covered under the Privacy Act.”
For its part, Logistep AG has obviously criticized the ruling, saying that it is “contrary to court decisions in Germany and abroad, where the proper and legitimate work of the Logistep AG has been confirmed. ”
It says the ruling creates a “kind of legal limbo” that could lead to the “massive and uncontrolled illegal distribution of copyrighted content.”
That may be the case, but as the court noted, the interests of copyright holders cannot outweigh the privacy interests of the people Logistep AG wishes to monitor for suspected wrongdoing.