Swiss Court Stops IP Gathering By Anti-Piracy Outfits

On September 8th Switzerland’s Federal Supreme Court handed down a ruling which could shake up copyright holders around the world and probably scared the heck out of such outfits as the RIAA and MPAA.

In a nutshell, the Federal Supreme Court ruled that IP addresses are personal information, and therefore, fall under the country’s strict privacy laws, and may not be used by anti-piracy companies.

The suit, brought by Swiss Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner (FDPIC), Hanspeter Thür, came about because Swiss-based Logistep has been collecting thousands of IP addresses and using them to file lawsuits.  Most cases were settled out-of-court for thousands of dollars.  The same strong-handed methods used by the RIAA and MPAA in the US.

In their press release, FDPIC states:

According to the Federal Supreme Court decision issued in Lausanne on the 8th September 2010, IP addresses are clearly personal data and are thus subject to the Data Protection Act.

In a majority decision, the Court considers it to be unlawful for private companies to covertly probe IP addresses. The decision by the Federal Supreme Court stated that there was insufficient justification for such practices.

Logistep has responded, of course, stating that their methods are perfectly legal in other countries and that they feel the ruling will make Switzerland as safe for pirates as it is for those hiding money in the (in)famous Swiss banks.  They also hinted at the possibility of leaving Switzerland and pursuing their business elsewhere.

What does this decision mean for other European countries, especially highly-privacy conscious ones such as Germany?  Will the ruling have any effect on countries elsewhere in the world?  Obviously I don’t speak for this website, but I think it’s safe to assume that none of us endorses piracy.  We all want right-holders to get their fair-share for the work they have done.  But the methods employed by some of these organizations are, to say the least, questionable and to say the most sometimes resemble extortion.  And in many countries they are difficult, if not impossible, to defend against.  So let’s hope this ruling reverberates far and wide.