EU court says ISPs can't be forced to monitor users

BRUSSELS Thu Nov 24, 2011 11:48pm IST

Related Topics

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Internet service providers cannot be forced to block their users from downloading songs illegally, as such an order would breach EU rules, Europe's highest court said on Thursday in a ruling welcomed by a consumer group.

The Luxembourg-based EU Court of Justice (ECJ) issued its verdict in a case involving Belgian music royalty collecting society SABAM and Belgian telecom operator Belgacom unit Scarlet.

SABAM asked a Belgian court to order Scarlet to install a device to prevent its users from downloading copyrighted works. The court ruled in SABAM's favour and order Scarlet to install such a device. However, Scarlet then challenged the ruling, prompting the Belgian court to seek advice from the ECJ.

"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 ECJ said.

"The filtering system would also be liable to infringe the fundamental rights of its (Scarlet's) customers, namely their right to protection of their personal data and their right to receive or impart information," the Luxembourg court said.

European consumer organisation BEUC said the ruling should get authorities and companies thinking about a fairer way to provide easily accessible legal digital content for consumers.

"The online marketplace has proven fertile ground, consumers spend billions of euro each year," said Monique Goyens, BEUC's director-general. "Trying to criminalise individual consumers for file-sharing is just singing into the wind."

One lawyer said the verdict clarified who is liable for what.

"It's a good ruling, it confirms basic principles about the allocation of responsibilities between ISPs and the ISP's users and ensures that ISPs will not be burdened by monitoring obligations," said Thomas Graf, a partner at law firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton.

Collecting societies collect royalty payments on behalf of authors, singers and performers. There are 24 such national organisations across the 27-country European Union.

The case is C-70/10, Scarlet Extended SA v. Societe Belge des auteurs, compositeurs et editeurs (SABAM).

(Additional reporting by Francesco Guarascio; Editing by Sebastian Moffett and Helen Massy-Beresford)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

Reuters Showcase

Balancing Act

Balancing Act

Europe's carmakers walk tightrope between low cost and high spec.  Full Article 

'Windows 10'

'Windows 10'

Microsoft names next operating system 'Windows 10'  Full Article 

Split from eBay

Split from eBay

Analysis - PayPal spawn have advanced where PayPal stood still   Full Article 

iPhone 6 in China

iPhone 6 in China

With iPhone 6 approved in China, Apple suppliers ready for demand.  Full Article 

Netflix Deal

Netflix Deal

Netflix 'Crouching Tiger' deal incurs wrath of theater chains.  Full Article 

Oracle Convention

Oracle Convention

Larry Ellison still the top draw at Oracle's mega-convention  Full Article 

Tax Rules

Tax Rules

EU says Ireland swapped Apple tax deal for jobs.  Full Article 

Music Services

Music Services

Google searches for right note in online music business.  Full Article 

E-Commerce Dispute

E-Commerce Dispute

Amazon, Disney appear close to settling dispute over movies - WSJ.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage