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ISPs implicated in copyright infringement, EU Court says

Providers may be ordered to block access to third-party websites

27 March, 15:52
ISPs implicated in copyright infringement, EU Court says (ANSA) - Brussels, March 27 - An Internet service provider (ISP) may be ordered to block its customers' access to a copyright-infringing website, the European Court of Justice ruled Thursday.

Such an injunction and its enforcement must, however, ensure a fair balance between the right to information and intellectual property rights, the Luxembourg tribunal said.

The ruling came in response to a request from the Supreme Court of Austria for the European Court of Justice to interpret the EU Copyright Directive and the fundamental rights recognised by EU law in relation to a case involving two companies holding various film rights and an Austrian ISP hosting a third-party website on which films could be viewed without the companies' consent. The Austrian courts prohibited the ISP from giving customers access to the website even though it argued that it did not have any business relationship with the website operators and that it had never been established that its own customers acted unlawfully. Ruling on the matter, the Court of Justice established that a person who makes protected subject-matter available to the public on a website without the agreement of the right holder is using the services of the business that provides Internet access to people accessing that subject-matter. Thus, an ISP that allows its customers to access protected subject matter made available to the public by a third party is an intermediary whose services are used to infringe a copyright, the judges said.