EU court ‘could scupper Swedish piracy law’

The European Court could put a stop to Swedish plans to crack down on internet piracy, according to reports. But the government insists that its proposals are compatible with EU law.

Under the Swedish proposals, internet service providers (ISPs) could be ordered by courts to hand over details of suspected file sharers to copyright owners. The copyright owners could then use the information to take the file sharers to court.

According to Svenska Dagbladet, an opinion published last month by the Advocate General of the European Court of Justice indicates the Swedish plans could break EU law.

In the opinion, Advocate General Juliane Kokott writes that “a direct transferral to copyright owners who wish to carry out civil actions against breaches of their rights is not permitted.”

She adds that European directives on data protection do not “limit the scope of data protection in favour of protection of intellectual property.”

Kokott’s opinion comes in the case of a Spanish music company, Promusicae, which asked ISP Telefonica to hand over the names of subscribers who distributed its songs over file-sharing networks. If Kokott’s line is followed, it will mean that ISPs are not obliged to reveal personal data in civil litigation cases.

The Advocate General’s opinion is only advisory, and the European Court of Justice could decide to take a different approach when it rules on the case later this year.

The Swedish government says that Kokott’s opinion is “hard to interpret.” Rickard Wessman, spokesman for Justice Minister Beatrice Ask, told The Local:

“We believe that our proposal is compatible with the directive. We are now awaiting the result of the case in the European Court of Justice. We are also waiting for responses to our consultation exercise.”