German court clears ISPs of liability for infringing uses by third parties

March 2005

Record Labels, Internet, Music Publishers, Film & Television

The Higher Regional Court of Frankfurt has ruled that an Internet Service Provider (ISP) is not obliged to reveal the name and address of an Internet user who offers downloads of music files on the Internet even though this service violating the copyrights or other rights of third parties The Court overturned a lower court order to have the name of an Internet user who operated a music server via a German provider made known to a music firm (reference no.: 11 U 51/04). The Court noted that the ISP only supplies technical access to the Internet and does not generally have any obligation to inspect the data being sent through its network. Rather, providers are only obligated to block access when they learn of illegal content. Providers do not, however, have to provide information about their customers because the providers have not themselves violated copyrights or aided and abetted. The court noted that whist there is a legal right to obtain information about a person violating copyright by making or disseminating physical copies of copyright works (eg pirate CDS and DVDs) the provisions in the Product Piracy Act only concern the manufacture and dissemination of physical copies and it is not clear whether these provisions also apply for the dissemination of music or other works protected by copyright in the Internet. Last year, the Higher Regional Court of Munich handed down a similar. However, the Regional Court of Hamburg has ruled that holders of copyrights can demand to receive information about the identity of a customer to whom certain dynamic IP addresses are assigned in order to prosecute possible illegal downloads by an access provider.

Case Reference: 11 U 51/04


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