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Dutch AG pressures Lycos in ID disclosure case

Stamp spat case closely watched by anti-piracy groups

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ISP Lycos may have to reveal the name of a Dutch (Lycos) website owner who ridiculed a part-time stamp trader, at least according to the Dutch Advocate General.

Dutch citizen Bernard Pessers traded postage stamps through auction site eBay and was accused of fraud by an anonymous Lycos member on his home page. Pessers wasn't amused and demanded the closure of the site. Lycos obeyed, but Pessers - who is a lawyer from the Dutch town of Tilburg - wasn't satisfied and demanded to know the identity of the member. When Lycos refused, Pessers took the ISP to court, initially handling the case himself.

After the initial verdict, Lycos handed over the data, but the address turned out to be wrong, and Pessers started another procedure to force Lycos to find the correct information. That demand was turned down in court on 1 April 2004. However, the Dutch Appeals Court of Amsterdam overruled the decision, after which Lycos took the case to the Dutch Supreme Court. The so-called Lycos-Pessers defence, which has dragged on for almost two years, has attracted attention from legal experts worldwide.

Now the Dutch Advocate General says that Lycos can indeed be sued over the identity of its members to pursue a civil action against someone who's anonymous.

Although the case has no relation to the music or movie industry, Dutch anti piracy organisation BREIN paid the legal bill of Pessers, because the advice by the Advocate General may be beneficial to its case against ISPs who refuse to identify illegal file swappers. BREIN is targeting 42 individuals suspected of illegally trading copyrighted music, but isn’t getting any co-operation from ISPs.

Lycos lawyer C.O. Wenckebach says that the advice of the Advocate General may indeed have implications for ISPs which refuse to disclose the names of suspected file sharers. "Usually The Supreme Court follows the advice of the Advocate General," he told The Register.

The Supreme Court case is scheduled for 25 November.®

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