Swiss Supreme Court: Tracking online file sharers illegal

Over the past couple of years, the Swiss laws have gone back and forth between protecting internet users’ privacy and allowing companies to report the identification information of those suspected of illegal file-sharing.

This week, the laws tipped back in favor of internet privacy when the Supreme Court of Switzerland ruled that spying on people and reporting their IP addresses to third parties is a violation of the country’s Privacy Act.

Swiss Supreme Court: Tracking online file sharers illegal

The lawsuit was filed in 2008 by the country’s Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner (FDPIC) Hanspeter Thuer against Swiss corporation Logistep AG. Theur demanded that Logistep cease their business practice of collecting the IP addresses of suspected media pirates and selling the information to music and film production companies. The data would then be used by groups like the MPAA and RIAA to file suit against the owners of the IP addresses.

After the ruling came down, Logistep AG responded with criticism stating that, “contrary to court decisions in Germany and abroad, where the proper and legitimate work of the Logistep AG has been confirmed.” They also were quoted as saying that the decision would create a “kind of legal limbo” that could lead to the “massive and uncontrolled illegal distribution of copyrighted content.”

Despite that risk, the court’s ruling stated that “the interests of copyright holders cannot outweigh the privacy interests of the people Logistep AG wishes to monitor for suspected wrongdoing.”

The way in which the RIAA and MPAA use this information to file unwieldy mass lawsuits makes me cheer in favor of this decision. While I would support reasonable protection of creative rights, I don’t believe that the tactics that have been used treat suspected illegal file-sharers in a fair manner. All too often there are cases with elderly people getting stuck with high fines for the actions of younger visiting family members or friends. Let’s try to find a better way to solve piracy issues.