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

The Big IPO

Reuters Showcase

Hardware Push

Hardware Push

Amazon expands Kindle lineup, boosts price of basic e-reader.  Full Article 

Banking on PlayStation

Banking on PlayStation

Sony hopes for PlayStation profit boost as smartphones struggle.  Full Article 

Apple Update

Apple Update

Bug delays Apple's HealthKit availability on iOS 8.  Full Article | Related Story 

Infosys -Huawei Deal

Infosys-Huawei Deal

Infosys partners with China's Huawei for cloud-based projects  Full Article 

New iPads

New iPads

Apple to unveil new iPads, operating system on Oct. 21 - report.  Full Article 

Data Security

Data Security

Apple hiring manager to handle China government data requests  Full Article | Related Story 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

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