EU rules against block on downloads

INTERNET service providers cannot be forced to stop the public from illegally downloading files from the internet, an EU court has ruled.

The ruling includes music files.

The European Court of Justice found that to block the downloading, internet service providers (ISPs) would have to monitor all of their users’ electrical communications and that would infringe on those people’s rights and violate EU law.

In 2004, SABAM, a Belgian music copyright group, was granted an injunction against a provider called ISP Scarlet, ordering it to make it impossible for its customers to send or receive any electronic files that contain musical works from SABAM’s repertoire.

Scarlet appealed the ruling to the Belgian Court of Appeals, which referred the case on to the European Court of Justice, which returned its verdict yesterday.

The decision will be unwelcome news for a large number of musicians and artists who had hoped they could have their intellectual property protected by the onus placed on ISPs.

However, ISPs welcomed the ruling.

The Internet Service Providers’ Association of Ireland (ISPAI) said: “The Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in June tabled wording for a statutory instrument which would purportedly bring Ireland into line with its European obligations under the Copyright and E-Commerce Directives.

“The injunctions regime provided for in the broad wording of the proposal, however, could potentially encompass not only blocking but mass filtering obligations and furthermore, the eventual introduction of a graduated response system is not inconceivable in these conditions. [The] ruling will certainly set limits on this.

“ISPAI has always condemned the improper use of our members’ networks to illicitly obtain copyrighted works, and has continually advocated the development of new business models exploiting the Internet to the benefit of musicians and artists.

“If measures were to be imposed on our members, they should never interfere with their freedom to conduct legitimate business or force them to expend unreasonable costs.

“[The] ruling sets an extremely important precedent for ISPs and will undoubtedly be seen as a landmark judgment for the digital age.”

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