Digital News Report – The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg overruled a Belgium court in an illegal file sharing case that would have forced Internet providers to install filters to screen for illegal content.
This is a setback for the organizations representing copyright holders. SABAM, a Belgian association of authors, composers and publishers sued Scarlet Extended, an Internet service provider in Belgium.
“This result is hugely important, as it protects the openness of the Internet,” the European Digital Rights civil rights group said in a statement. “The alternative would have been a decision which would ultimately have put all European networks under permanent surveillance and filtering.”
SABAM had a different opinion. “Authors worried about the decision by the Court of Justice of the European Union as to the general filtering of works on Scarlet’s network,” the group said. “Consequently, SABAM shall take the time to thoroughly analyze some alternatives.”
The high court ruled that property rights holders can file for inductions against intermediaries like ISPs, however respect EU law that prohibits “general monitoring”.
“EU law precludes the imposition of an injunction by a national court which requires an internet service provider to install a filtering system with a view to preventing the illegal downloading of files”, the court said Thursday.
“Such an injunction does not comply with the prohibition on imposing a general monitoring obligation on such a provider, or with the requirement to strike a fair balance between, on the one hand, the right to intellectual property, and, on the other, the freedom to conduct business, the right to protection of personal data and the freedom to receive or impart information.”
Scarlet appealed a decision by the Cour d’appel de Bruxelles (Brussels Court of Appeal). The Internet provider said SABAM was imposing a de facto obligation on them to monitor communication on their network.
Court of Appeals asked the highest law court in Europe to decide whether EU law permits Member States to authorize a national court to order an internet service provider to install “preventative measures” exclusively at its expense and for an unlimited period, a system for filtering all electronic communications in order to identify illegal file downloads.
By Mark Williams