What? The European Court of Justice has ruled that national court injunctions that require an internet service provider (“ISP”) to install a filtering system to prevent the illegal download of files are prohibited under EU law.
So What? In 2004, SABAM, a Belgian collecting society representing authors, composers and publishers, brought copyright infringement proceedings against Scarlet, a Belgian ISP. SABAM’s claim related to the use of Scarlet’s network for illegal distribution of copyright material via peer-to-peer networks. SABAM enjoyed a brief victory when, in 2007, a Belgian court ruled that Scarlet had an obligation to implement filtering technology to prevent the download of infringing files from its network. Scarlett subsequently appealed that decision.
The ECJ decided that EU law precludes the imposition of an injunction by a national court which requires an internet service provider to install a filtering system with a view to preventing the illegal downloading of files. Such an injunction does not comply with the prohibition on imposing a general monitoring obligation on such a provider, or with the requirement to strike a fair balance between, on the one hand, the right to intellectual property and, on the other, the freedom to conduct business, the right to protection of personal data and the freedom to receive or impart information.
This decision only applies to filtering of all incoming content. Content providers still have the right to request that ISPs block particular websites therefore there is still some protection for content owners.