The Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled that Internet Service Providers in Europe legally may block piracy sites. The decision came in a case involving Constatintin Film and Wega, two movie production companies that had sued UPC Telekabel, an ISP, to block access to the website kino.to, which illegally distributes copyright-protected material.
The court decided that because “Intellectual property has. . . .been recognized as an integral part of property. . . rights holders should have the possibility of applying for an injunction against an intermediary who carries a third party’s infringement of a protected work or other subject-matter in a network“ — meaning rights holders could seek injunctions against an ISP.
As Entertainment Law Digest summarizes, the court reached its decision by “balancing the rights of copyright holders, the business interest of Internet providers and the right to information by EU citizens.” It concluded that, while rights holders may seek injunctions against them, ISPs also may put in place their own blocks, targeting only an infringing or piracy site.
The service provider will be clear of liability, as long as it “does not unnecessarily deprive internet users of the possibility of lawfully accessing the information available.” It also must show that its blocking measures do, indeed, prevent unauthorized access to the protected subject matter or at least make it difficult tough and discouraging to those who would use their internet access to infringe on protected material.
The decision by the EU high court — which seeks to ensure uniform interpretation and enforcement of laws in all the union’s member states — follows a Spanish decision in Telecinco v. YouTube. There, a court in Madrid found that Telecinco could not be granted an injunction to suspend YouTube from carrying copyrighted material. It will be interesting to see how this Spanish decision will be aligned with the EU ruling, which was unsurprising to some legal analysts.