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EU Court of Justice rules that ISPs can be forced to block copyright-infringing sites

The ruling allows ISPs to decide the best way to combat copyright violations in their respective country.

Image: AP Photo/Yves Logghe

THE EUROPEAN COURT of Justice (ECJ) has rules that EU states can order internet service providers (ISP) to block websites that infringe copyright.

The ruling, which dealt with an case brought up by Austria’s highest court,  ruled that while ISPs could be seen as an intermediary to copyright infringement, it will be up to national courts and lawmakers to decide on the best course of action and whether to block certain sites and online content.

The original case concerned two film companies – the German based Constantin Film Verlieh and Wega Filmproduktionsgesellschaft from Austria – which found out their films could be viewed or downloaded from the website, kino.to, without their consent.

After tacking action, the Austrian courts prohibited UPC Telekabel Wien, an Austrian ISP, from allowing its customers access to the site. UPC argued that it shouldn’t be responsible for policing copyright on a site that it had no relationship with and that there was no ruling which said its own customers acted unlawfully.

Also, the measures needed to block certain sites would be very costly and could be technically bypassed by internet users.

Therefore, the ECJ was asked for its take on the EU copyright law, which it noted “does not require a specific relationship between the person infringing copyright and the intermediary against whom an injunction may be issued.”

It also said it wasn’t necessary for copyright holders to prove that the protected content was actually being accessed through the providers they were targeting.

The ECJ said that the national courts can leave it up to the ISPs to decide on the best way of preventing copyright violations.

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Quinton O'Reilly

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