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24 May 2010
A Lithuanian court recently dismissed the country's first-ever copyright infringement case against a user of a torrent search engine. The controversial case, in which the plaintiff sought a ruling of administrative liability against a user of Lithuania's biggest torrent search engine, was dismissed mainly on procedural grounds relating to the collection of evidence.
Punishing internet users for copyright infringement has been legally possible since the Code of Administrative Infringements was amended in 2009.(1) Previously, the code imposed administrative liability only for copyright infringements perpetrated for commercial purposes. Individuals who illegally published copyrighted works online, but without a commercial aim, were beyond the scope of the law, despite the fact that they were enabling others to reproduce illegal copies of works and thereby infringing the rights of IP rights holders and the state.(2) The 2009 amendments changed Article 214(10)(1) of the code to state that:
"[the i]llegal public performance, reproduction, public display [or] use in any form or by any means for non-commercial purposes of literary, scientific or artistic works (including computer programs and databases) or objects of related rights or parts thereof, as well as the distribution, shipping or storage of illegal copies for commercial purposes, incurs a fine of between Lit1,000 and Lit2,000 [approximately €1,000 to €2,000] and [the] confiscation of illegal copies of works or objects of related rights."
Following the amendments, the Lithuanian Anti-piracy Activities Association initiated controversial proceedings against users of the biggest Lithuanian torrent search engine, Linkomanija. Working with the police, the association tracked the internet protocol addresses of 106 Linkomanija users who were downloading and seeding the operating system Microsoft Windows 7. Based on this information, the police issued a statement of administrative infringement against one of the users under Article 214(10)(1).
The case was heard by the Kaunas Regional Court. In its landmark ruling the court referred the principle of legality and the case law of the Supreme Administrative Court concerning the collection of evidence. Data is deemed to have been collected unlawfully if:
Having examined the information provided, the court held that there was no evidence that the association, as a public institution, was authorized to collect evidence independently. The court also noted that no information was provided on whether the equipment used to track copyright and related rights infringements by internet users was officially certified. Therefore, the defendant's activity had not been shown to amount to an administrative infringement as specified in Article 214(10)(1) and the case was dismissed. An appeal by the police to the Supreme Administrative Court is not expected to be heard and decided until early 2011.
As a result, the large-scale proceedings that the association had been planning against users of Lithuanian torrent search engines are likely to be postponed, at least until the Supreme Administrative Court decision is known.
For further information on this topic please contact Edita Ivanauskienė or Julius Zaleskis at Lideika, Petrauskas Valiunas ir partneriai LAWIN by telephone (+370 5 268 1888), fax (+370 5 212 5591) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com).
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