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ISP Doesn’t Have to Expose Alleged Movie Pirates, Dutch Supreme Court Rules

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Internet provider Ziggo is not required to hand over the personal details of 377 alleged pirates, the Dutch Supreme Court has ruled. The personal information was requested by movie distributor Dutch FilmWorks. Its goal was to collect settlements from 'pirating' subscribers but instead, the movie company must now pay the ISP's legal fees.

Piracy settlement letters have become a serious threat in countries all round the world.

Thus far, Dutch Internet users have been spared from this practice but local movie distributor Dutch Filmworks planned to change that.

Dutch FilmWorks’ Quest for Piracy Settlements

Four years ago the company received permission from the Dutch Data Protection Authority to monitor and store the IP-addresses of BitTorrent users who shared pirated movies.

However, that was only the first hurdle it had to overcome. The next step was to identify the subscribers behind the IP-addresses and Dutch Internet provider Ziggo didn’t want to share any customer data without a court order.

The case went to court, where the movie company requested the personal details of 377 account holders whose addresses were allegedly used to share a copy of “The Hitman’s Bodyguard”.

Courts Don’t Approve

This didn’t go as planned for Dutch FilmWorks. In the first instance, the Central Netherlands Court denied the company’s request for data and, after that, the Court of Appeal reached the same conclusion.

Both courts found that Dutch FilmWorks’ plans lacked transparency as it’s not clear what the movie company intended to do with the personal data. Dutch FilmWorks said that it could either warn subscribers or request damages, but the criteria for each step were unknown.

It was also unclear how large the proposed settlements would be. The film company mentioned an initial figure of €150 per infringement but this number could also be significantly higher.

Supreme Court Keeps Verdict Intact

In a final bid to expose the alleged pirates, Dutch FilmWorks took the case to the Supreme Court but this effort failed as well. The highest court in the Netherlands sees no reason to reach a different conclusion than that reached by the Court of Appeal.

“The Supreme Court has assessed the complaints about the Court of Appeal’s order. The outcome of this is that these complaints cannot lead to the annulment of that judgment,” the decision reads.

The Supreme Court’s judgment is brief and doesn’t come with a full opinion. The case didn’t present any questions that are crucial for the development of the law, the order explains, so the Court is not required to motivate its decision.

This means that, after half a decade, Dutch FilmWorks’ effort to identify the names linked to these pirating IP-addresses is now stranded. Instead of earning money through settlements, it’s the movie company that must now pay.

As in the earlier proceedings, Dutch FilmWorks is required to pay the legal fees incurred by Internet provider Ziggo, which adds up to thousands of euros.

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