Wednesday

28th Sep 2016

Internet providers can be forced to block access to illegal downloads, rules EU Court

EU-based internet service providers can be ordered to block customers’ access to a copyright-infringing website, following a ruling on Thursday (27 March) by the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

The judgement follows a dispute between Austrian Internet provider Telekabel Wien and two film companies, based in Germany and Austria, over whether the internet service provider (ISP) should be forced to prevent its customers from accessing film download site kino.to, a Tonga-based website that received nearly 4 million visitors a day.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • The ruling strengthens the ability of music and other creative industries to tackle piracy (Photo: Cyrus Farivar)

Although the Austrian courts stated that Telekabel should block access to the site - which was closed down in 2011 following police action - Telekabel argued that blocking measures could be evaded by downloaders and would be "excessively costly".

The EU's copyright directive gives rights holders the power to request an injunction against intermediaries who provide services that can be used to breach copyright.

Despite its protestations, the EU's top court found that, as an internet provider allowing its customers to view copyrighted films and music, Telakabel could be classified as an intermediary.

"The Court notes, in that regard, that the directive, which seeks to guarantee a high level of protection of rights holders, does not require a specific relationship between the person infringing copyright and the intermediary against whom an injunction may be issued," it said.

"Internet users and also, indeed, the ISP must be able to assert their rights," the Court added.

The UK and Ireland are among a handful of countries already taking action to block access to sites such as Swedish-based download site Pirate Bay, through ISPs.

In a statement, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), a music industry lobby group welcomed the ruling which it said confirmed that "copyright is itself a fundamental right requiring protection."

"The decision by the ECJ today confirming that website blocking does not infringe fundamental rights in the EU is an important clarification that will strengthen the ability of music and other creative industries to tackle piracy," IFPI added.

The ECJ ruling marks a volte face from a ruling by the same court in 2011 which found that Belgian internet provider Belgacom Scarlet, could not be forced by a national court to block users from illegally sharing music and video files.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. World VisionNew Tool Measuring Government Efforts to Protect Children Released
  2. GoogleDid You Know Europe's Largest Dinosaur Gallery Is in Brussels? Check It Out Now
  3. IPHRHuman Rights in Uzbekistan After Karimov - Joint Statement
  4. CISPECloud Infrastructure Providers Unveil Data Protection Code of Conduct
  5. EFAMessages of Hope From the Basque Country and Galicia
  6. Access NowDigital Rights Heroes and Villains. See Who Protects Your Rights, Who Wants to Take Them Away
  7. Martens CentreQuo Vadis Georgia? What to Expect From the Parliamentary Elections. Debate on 29 September
  8. EJCAppalled by Recommendation to Remove Hamas From EU Terrorism Watch List
  9. GoogleBringing Education to Refugees in Lebanon With the Clooney Foundation for Justice
  10. HuaweiAn Industry-leading ICT Solution Provider and Building a Better World
  11. Belgrade Security ForumCan Democracy Survive Global Disorder?
  12. GoogleTrimming the Waste-Line: Weaving Circular Economy Principles Into Our Operations