13 July 2022CopyrightSarah Speight

Finland Supreme Court orders data sharing in copyright piracy case

Contact details for dozens of BitTorrent users will be shared with a film rightsholder.

Finland’s Supreme Court has overruled a lower court and ordered an internet service provider (ISP) to reveal all of the personal details of subscribers suspected of piracy to a film rights owner.

The case involves a group of film rightsholders, referred to in the court document as “BA/S”, and a Finnish telecommunications company, DNA Oyj (referred by the court as “A Oyj”).

The petitioner accuses A Oyj of making films available to subscribers over the BitTorrent peer-to-peer content sharing network, without BA/S’s permission.

The decision, handed down on July 5, overrules the opinion of a lower court and could give so-called ‘copyright trolls’ the go-ahead to demand cash settlements—a problem seen in  Finland for several years.

Disclosure demand

BA/S demanded that the Market Court, which deals with IP cases, order A Oyj to disclose the contact details of 34 of its subscribers, pursuant to Section 60a of the Copyright Act.

BA/S alleged that the telecoms company had made a “significant amount” of copyrighted material available to the public using BitTorrent.

In response, A Oyj demanded that the application be rejected based on the fact that Section 60a of the Copyright Act could not be applied, as it was contrary to EU law. It added that none of the subscriptions identified by the petitioner had made material protected by copyright available to the public to a significant extent as required by law.

In several cases, the petitioner maintained, access to the offending material by subscribers had been for one day or a few seconds or minutes.

Market Court decision

The Market Court had in 2020 ordered A Oyj to hand over to BA/S the contact details of five subscribers, and rejected BA/S's application in other respects. Both parties were granted permission to appeal.

A Oyj demanded that the decision be overturned and that BA/S' application be rejected in its entirety. In response, BA/S demanded that A Oyj's appeal be rejected.

However, the Supreme Court this week ruled that A Oyj hand over to BA/S the details of all 34 subscribers quoted in the petitioner’s application, and not just the five subscribers ordered by the market court.

Green light to copyright trolling?

According to piracy blog TorrentFreak, the decision could give copyright trolls the green light-at least in Finland.

Copyright trolling is the practice of issuing copyright infringement notices in order to obtain cash settlements, the objective being to avoid litigation while generating revenue. Cash settlement factories essentially demand cash payments from targeted account users as a form of bribery from legal penalty.

Rightsholders’ evidence can be questionable and as a result, cases are often dropped.

In June 2021, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) held that rightsholders can request user information such as IP addresses to enforce their IP rights in certain circumstances, with the caveat that such requests must be “non-abusive, reasonable, and proportionate.”

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