European Court of Justice rules against anti-piracy filter

The European Court of Justice has ruled that a social network cannot be made to install an anti-piracy filtering system.The judgment comes after SABAM, a Belgian institution that manages the copyright of  Belgian writers and composers wanted Netlog, a Belgian social networking website with some 94 million registered international users, to install a filtering system in order to prevent the unlawful use of musical and audio-visual work by its users.

 

Illegal sharing of works vs filtering of content

On Netlog registered members can create their own web pages, extend their social networks, publish their music playlists, share videos, post blogs and join groups. According to SABAM, Netlog profiles also enable users to share musical and audio-visual works in SABAM’s repertoire, making them available to other users of the Netlog network without SABAM’s permission and without Netlog paying a fee.

Consequently, in 2009, SABAM asked a Belgian court to prevent Netlog from making works from SABAM’s repertoire available, asking the court to impose a EUR 1,000 fine for every day the social network failed to do so.

In reaction Netlog argued that SABAM’s request would force it to filter its content and, in doing so, monitor its users, something that is in direct breach of the EU E-Commerce Directive.

The case was referred to the European Court of Justice that was to decide on the legality of the requested filtering system.

 

Filter would infringe the rights of Netlog users

The European Court of Justice has now ruled that installing the type of filter that SABAM demanded would breach Netlog’s freedom to conduct its business “since it would require Netlog to install a complicated, costly, permanent computer system at its own expense”.

More importantly, the Court believes that the injunction would “infringe the fundamental rights of [Netlog’s] service users – namely their right to protection of their personal data and their freedom to receive or impart information – which are rights safeguarded by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.”

The ruling marks the second time the European Court of Justice has ruled against SABAM: in November 2011 the Court ruled that SABAM cannot force an internet service provider to  install monitoring systems to prevent illegal downloads of copyrighted material, as this method of intellectual property rights protection would breach European law.
Ursa Primozic

Ursa Primozic

Ursa Primozic has been with Aphaia since its foundation. With several years of experience within the telecommunications sector, she is in charge of communications management and media policy and regulation analysis.
Ursa Primozic

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