Sunday

28th Feb 2021

EU court rules social networks cannot police downloads

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has struck the latest blow in the debate over internet policing, ruling on Thursday (16 February) that online social network sites cannot be forced to construct measures to prevent users from downloading songs illegally.

The court, which is the highest judicial authority in the EU, stated that installing general filters would infringe on the freedom to conduct business and on data privacy.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

In a press statement accompanying its judgement, the court stated that forcing sites to police their network for illegal downloads “would not be respecting the prohibition to impose on that provider a general obligation to monitor nor the requirement that a fair balance be struck between the protection of copyright, on the one hand, and the freedom to conduct business, the right to protection of personal data and the freedom to receive or impart information.”

The case was brought before the ECJ by Sabam, the Belgian national music royalty collecting society, against social network site Netlog. In 2009, Sabam went to the Belgian Court of First Instance to demand that Netlog take action to prevent site-users from illegally downloading songs from its portfolio. It also insisted that Netlog pay a €1,000 fine for every day of delaying in compliance. Netlog legal submission argued that granting Sabam’s injunction would be imposing a general obligation to monitor on Netlog, which is prohibited by the e-commerce directive.

Like other social networking sites Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, Netlog allows users to create a profile through which they keep a diary, link with their friends and display photos or video clips, including copy-righted works.

In its ruling, the court duly cited the e-commerce directive, judging that implementing a filter system would require the host site to work as an active policeman of all files stored on its servers which could hold copyrighted works. Agreeing with Netlog’s submission, it stated that “general monitoring of the information stored on its servers” was “prohibited” by the e-commerce directive.

"Such an injunction would result in a serious infringement of Netlog's freedom to conduct its business since it would require Netlog to install a complicated, costly, permanent computer system at its own expense," the ECJ concluded.

The court added that the right to data privacy and to be able to receive or send information were part of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, with which all EU law must comply.

The ECJ ruling is the latest act in the long-running worldwide saga on the policing of online piracy. In the last fortnight there have been mounting protests against the controversial Acta treaty, an attempt to establish global rules for policing counterfeit trade online.

Although negotiations on Acta began in 2006, with 22 of the EU’s 27 Member States having signed up to it, five countries, including Germany and Poland, have halted the accession process following rising public pressure. Public protests swept across Europe’s streets last weekend in protest against the treaty.

Rights-holders and companies want internet service providers and technology companies to take action to prevent widespread copyright theft of illegally downloaded films and music.

Technology companies have argued that this would infringe on freedom of speech, internet freedom and be difficult to enforce, while internet campaigners fear that Acta would lead to invasive internet surveillance.

Watch Brussels based protest against the international intellectual property enforcement treaty, acta.

Hundreds of Belgians say No to Acta.
Let people download music by text message, says EP report

MEPs to focus on providing legal certainty in the online environment in Europe. The EU should allow people to pay for downloaded music by text message, according to a European Parliament report on the audiovisual sector.

No ban on second-hand software, says EU court

EU copyright law does not ban the re-sale of computer programme licences, according to a ruling on Wednesday by the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice.

Pressure mounts on EU cloud deal as deadline looms

The European Commission is under pressure to keep to its self-imposed September deadline to publish an EU cloud computing strategy, as new evidence revealed widespread public confusion about it.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders restate defence 'autonomy' plan
  2. Rights group exposes Ethiopia massacre
  3. US carried out airstrikes against Iran-backed militia in Syria
  4. Malta closes investigation into journalist murder
  5. Dutch parliament calls China treatment of Uighurs genocide
  6. Spain fined €15m by ECJ over data failures
  7. Belarus: Anti-government protester jailed for 10 years
  8. German charged with spying for Russia in Bundestag

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  3. CESIKlaus Heeger and Romain Wolff re-elected Secretary General and President of independent trade unions in Europe (CESI)
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersReport: The prevalence of men who use internet forums characterised by misogyny
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!

Latest News

  1. Armenia 'coup' shows waning of EU star in South Caucasus
  2. 'Difficult weeks' ahead, as variants spread across EU
  3. EU top court advised to strike down Hungary's asylum policy
  4. Frontex chief: 'about time' MEPs probe his agency
  5. Is EU poised to solve child labour in 'green' batteries?
  6. The trap of spreading ideas while attacking them
  7. Who are the EU's new Russian deplorables?
  8. Afghan asylum family beaten in Greece, set adrift at sea

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us