- Jul 27, 2015
YouTube is not required to hand over the email and IP-addresses of pirating users, Advocate General Saugmandsgaard Øe advised in an opinion to the EU Court of Justice. The opinion concludes that EU law doesn't require providers to hand over more than the infringers' names and postal addresses. The final ruling, which has yet to be issued, will likely set a crucial precedent for similar cases.
YouTube’s users upload millions of hours of videos every month. As with any user-generated content site, this also includes copyright-infringing content. This abuse is a thorn in the side of some copyright holders. Although they can send takedown requests to remove pirated content, some companies want to go after the infringers. This is what happened in Germany, where the local company “Constantin Film” went after three YouTube users. These account holders had uploaded copies of the movies “Scary Movie 5” or “Parker” without permission, which were then viewed thousands of times.
The movie company demanded that Google and YouTube should share the email addresses, IP-addresses, and phone numbers that were tied to these accounts and took the matter to a local court. Initially, this request was turned down by the Frankfurt District Court, but the Higher Regional Court later ruled that YouTube should hand over the associated email addresses, but not the IP-addresses and phone numbers. Neither party was happy with this outcome and the case was sent to Germany’s Federal Court of Justice for another ruling. Before making a final judgment, the German court sent some questions to the EU Court of Justice, asking for input on how to interpret EU law in this matter. While both German and EU legislation grant copyright holders the right to know who the copyright infringer is, it’s not clear what information should be handed over. Article 8 of the EU Copyright Directive from 2004 doesn’t go any further than mentioning “names and addresses” without any further specification.
To clarify the position, Germany’s Federal Court asked whether the law should be interpreted in a way that also covers email addresses, phone numbers, and IP-addresses. In an advisory opinion released by EU Advocate General Henrik Saugmandsgaard Øe, this should not be the case.