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T-Online forced to delete IP logs

Data protection could protect pirates

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The German Supreme court has ruled that T-Online, one of the largest ISPs in Germany, has to delete all IP logs to guarantee the privacy of its customers when they ask for it. For now, at least.

The court case was initiated by Holger Voss, who was charged over comments in an online forum about the 11 September attacks that he maintained were only sarcastic and satirical. Because Voss used a nickname, the public prosecutors in Munster started an investigation and tried to trace his IP-address. Ultimately, Voss was fined € 1,500, which he successfully appealed.

But that was not the end of it. In court Voss argued that T-Online had provided his IP address unlawfully. He said IP addresses are irrelevant for book keeping and shouldn't be stored by ISPs. The district court, the regional court, and now even the Supreme court agreed.

Experts believe that because of the ruling, anti-piracy organisations in Germany will have difficulty tracing the IP-address back to customers. After sharing music illegally, they could simply ask T-Online to erase the logs. In fact, a lawyer from Frankfurt has already put up a sample letter online to make this process effortless.

Others say it won't be that easy. Even after a complaint, T-Online still has the choice not to comply and face a lawsuit. Also, Germany will have to comply with an EU directive mandating that logs be kept for at least 6 months. Therefore, experts believe, the German data protection law will soon be changed.®

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