Court: Logistep Can’t Collect P2P Users’ IP Addresses

Switzerland-based anti-piracy company Logistep has to stop collecting IP addresses from P2P users, the country’s High Court decided today. The court ruled that IP addresses are personal information, and as such protected by the country’s strict privacy laws. All of this means that Logistep can’t collect them without the authorization of the persons affected by it.

Logistep has been seeking out copyright infringers in file-sharing networks by the tens of thousands in recent years, supplying the evidence used in countless lawsuits against individuals that were oftentimes settled out of court for hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars per downloaded movie or album. These lawsuits have been most prevalent in Germany and the U.K., but rights holders recently adopted similar techniques to go after BitTorrent downloaders in the U.S..

Today’s court decision means that Logistep is at least temporarily unable to supply any further IP addresses to rights holders looking to sue file sharers. The company already raised the possibility of leaving Switzerland altogether in a press release issued in response to the ruling, pointing out that this type of evidence collection is perfectly legal in many other countries. The release quotes Logistep’s chairman Richard M. Schneider saying that Switzerland could become a safe haven for copyright infringement if the government didn’t step in to fill the void.

Switzerland’s federal data protection and information commissioner Hanspeter Thuer demanded in 2008 that Logistep stop collecting IP addresses of file sharers. He eventually went to court to enforce compliance with the country’s privacy laws, but was handed a defeat in a lower court.

Today’s decision was met with approval by Thuer, who pointed out in a press release that this decision doesn’t protect people who violate copyright laws. However, he said, going after file sharers has to be lawful as well, adding: “The High Court took a clear stance against arbitrary spying on private data on the Internet today.”

Image courtesy of (CC-BY-SA) Flickr user jepoirrier.

Related content on GigaOm Pro: Are Torrents a Tool for Predicting the Future? (subscription required)