Skype in court over failure to hand over call records

The court wants to know if Skype is a telecom operator. That could determine if it should hand over its call records.

(Image via CNET/CBS Interactive)

Skype has been summoned to appear in court in Belgium after it refused to share call records to help a criminal investigation.

A court in north Belgium demanded that messages and calls from Skype, now owned by Microsoft, should be handed over to prosecutors under the country's telecommunications laws. Phone providers in the country are required to hand over data when requested.

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Skype, however, argues that it doesn't fall into that category.

A court spokesperson told Reuters that the judicial question is "whether Skype is a telecoms operator," which could determine the company's future status in the country.

If Skype, a Luxembourg-based company, is classed as a telecoms operator, it will have to hand over the data and likely pay a fine.

The case centers on whether or not the company should live by the same rules as phone companies, like Deutsche Telecom and other mobile operators, which would mean opening up its networks to wiretap and eavesdropping demands.

A similar case played out in France in 2014, where the country referred Skype to prosecutors after it failed to register as a telecom company. The French regulatory agency argued that regardless of which device a voice communications came from, it constitutes a "telephone service."

In registering, it would've forced Skype to route emergency calls through its system, as well as comply with wiretap demands.

Should Skype remains as a software company, the government would use a different, more judicially-based process to acquire the data.

We reached out to Microsoft for comment but did not hear back.

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