The origin of this case is an application made by an organisation of music and audiovisual recordings producers and editors before Commercial Court number 5 in Madrid to request preliminary measures against Telefónica.
Telefónica refused to disclose the identity and address of a series of individuals to whom it provided Internet services. These people used the KaZaA phonogram exchange program and, according to the claimant, its members enjoyed exploitation rights over said phonograms. The claimant argued that KaZaA users were engaging in unfair competition as well as infringing the intellectual property rights managed by the claimant.
The Madrid Court ordered the preliminary measures that had been requested and Telefónica appealed against said decision, arguing that the disclosure of the abovementioned data is only authorised in the context of a criminal investigation or for public security and national defence purposes, but not in the context of civil proceedings.
Under these circumstances the Madrid Court decided to stay the proceedings and posed the following question to the Court for a preliminary ruling:
‘Does Community law permit Member States to limit to the context of a criminal investigation or to safeguard public security and national defence, thus excluding civil proceedings, the duty of operators of electronic communications networks and services, providers of access to telecommunications networks and providers of data storage services to retain and make available connection and traffic data generated by the communications established during the supply of an information society service?’
The Court of Justice first determined whether or not European Directives allowed Member States to impose, so as to ensure an effective protection of property rights, the obligation to disseminate personal data which would enable the copyright holder to initiate civil proceedings based on the existence of said right.
The Court studied whether the European Directives on Copyright were detrimental to the Directives on Data Protection and concluded that none of the European Directives on Personal Data required Member States to impose the obligation to disclose personal data.
The Court of Justice concluded that the European Directives do not require Member States, in a situation such as the one envisaged under these proceedings, to impose the obligation to disclose personal data in order to ensure an effective protection of property rights in the context of civil proceedings. However, Community law establishes that in other to adapt national legislation to said directives, Member States should interpret said Directives so as to allow a fair balance among the fundamental rights protected under Community law.
In short, the Judgment rendered by the Court of Justice on January 29th 2008 established that the European Directives do not require Member States to impose the obligation to disclose personal data in order to ensure an effective protection of copyrights in the context of civil proceedings. Consequently, Telefónica is not obliged to disclose the personal data of customers that use file exchange programs such as KaZaA.