Banking privacy prevails over copyright enforcement, Dutch court rules

Dutch anti-piracy organization Brein doesn't think an elderly woman runs the site FTD World

Privacy laws protecting bank account holders are more important than providing information to aid in copyright enforcement, according to a Dutch court ruling this week.

The Dutch ING Bank doesn't have to reveal who has access to a bank account, the number for which is posted on the website FTD World, the Amsterdam district court ruled.

FTD World, at ftdworld.net, is a Usenet-indexing website that lists links to binary files posted on Usenet. It also provides files in the NZB format listing that allows users to download the posted files more easily. By doing this, the site provides access to copyrighted entertainment files including books, movies, music, games and software without the permission of the copyright holders, according to Dutch anti-piracy foundation Brein.

Brein wanted the court to force ING Bank to reveal who is behind a bank account number posted to the site that is used to receive donations, according to the verdict published by the court on Thursday. It had previously been unable to track down the domain name registrant and had received no reply to a letter sent to the Russian hosting provider.

The bank account number belongs to a woman, identified only as "[F]" by the court, who was born in 1927 and moved to Suriname in 2009, the verdict said.

Brein however doesn't think that an almost 90-year-old women runs the website. Therefore, it demanded that ING revealed who else was authorized to access the bank account.

In a letter sent to Brein on March 7, ING said that someone else was authorized to use the account on the women's behalf but added that Dutch data protection law prevented it from revealing this person's identity. The bank however did reveal that the women's debit card was used for cash withdrawals in the northern part of Amsterdam between February 4 and February 18.

Brein subsequently sued to ask the court to force the bank to reveal any other names, phone numbers, email addresses and postal addresses linked to the bank account.

The court however dismissed Brein's claims last Tuesday. ING is not instrumental in the alleged copyright infringement by FTD World and only provides bank transactions which are not essential to the possible copyright infringement, the court ruled.

"There is no relationship between ING Bank and copyright infringement," Judge Sj.A. Rullmann, wrote.

Brein also could have done more to trace the person behind the site, she wrote. Brein didn't even try to write to the woman attempt to trace her, she added.

Brein said it was unable to track down the woman in Suriname and said it is possible she might be simply a front person, according to the verdict.

Brein could also have filed a criminal complaint, the judge said.

ING Bank has a special position that all banks have in the legal and financial transaction system, Rullmann said. Clients should be able to trust their banks and client data should only be communicated in very exceptional circumstances. And if that data should be shared it should be in safe hands, she added.

The court ordered Brein to pay ING's litigation fees of about €1,400 (US$1,800).

Brein disagrees with the decision and will appeal the case, it said in a blog post on Friday.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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