YouTube does not have to provide all the data of users uploading pirated movies

With the judgment of 9 July 2020 (Case C264/19) the Court of Justice of the European Union clarified what data can be provided in the event of online infringement of intellectual property rights.

The case

The story concerned the publication on YouTube of files containing the full movies ‘Parker’ and ‘Scary Movie 5’. The two movies were uploaded to the platform by some users, gaining tens of thousands of views and provoking the reaction of Constantin Film Verleih, a company that in Germany holds the exclusive exploitation rights to the two cinematographic works.

Constantin Film had therefore requested from YouTube and Google the data of the authors of the abusive publication, so that they could identify and assert them against the infringement of their intellectual property rights.

Having obtained only fictitious names associated with the accounts, Constantin Film demanded to be also provided with the e-mail addresses and mobile phone numbers of the alleged authors of the publishing, in addition to the IP addresses used by users to upload the two files.

But YouTube and Google had refused to provide additional data and the case had been referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

The claim by Constantin Film was based on Directive 2004/48/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the enforcement of intellectual property rights. According to Article 8 of the Directive, in proceedings concerning an infringement of intellectual property rights, the court may order the provision of information on the origin and networks of distribution of goods or services which infringe an intellectual property right, including “the name and address of producers, manufacturers, distributors, suppliers and other previous holders of goods or services, as well as wholesalers and retailers”.

According to Constantin Film, the Judge should have ordered the platform operator to provide all information requested because the concept of “address”, provided for by the standard, would also include the e-mail and IP addresses, as well as the mobile number of the offender.

But the Court of Justice did not accept this interpretation, stating that the meaning of the term ‘address’ must be determined on the basis of the meaning attributed to the word in the current language and, that is, as the ‘place of domicile or residence of a particular person’.

The Court pointed out that this conclusion was also imposed by the need to maintain a balance between the need to protect copyright and the opposite need to protect the fundamental rights of users. This balance involves a necessary safeguard of users’ personal data, which cannot be entirely sacrificed to provide information on those responsible for a copyright infringement.


Therefore, under the European Union law, the online platform operator may be ordered to communicate the user’s name and address of residence or domicile but, if the manager does not have such data, it cannot be forced to communicate also the email address or phone number associated with the user’s account, nor the IP address used to upload the illegal content or to access the account.