16 December 2011

ISP filtering in Europe

In May 2011 I wrote about the SABAM case, in which Scarlet Extended SA (an ISP) had been sued by Société belge des auteurs, compositeurs et éditeurs SCRL, better known as SABAM.

That case seems to hit finality in Scarlet's appeal to the Cour d'appel de Bruxelles. The court requested a preliminary ruling from the Court of Justice of the European Union in Case C-70/10, and judgement was handed down on 24 November 2011. It held:
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 download of files (press release)  
The case turned on the E-Commerce Directive, which prevents Member State laws from requiring ISPs to carry out general monitoring of information passing through its network. The Court recognised the importance of protection of intellectual property rights, but found that the SABAM injunction would not respect fundamental rights of citizens - particularly their right to personal data and the right to receive or impart information. The personal data issue arose because Scarlet would have had to collect and identify IP addresses, which are protected personal data.
Accordingly, the Court’s reply is that EU law precludes an injunction made against an internet service provider requiring it to install a system for filtering all electronic communications passing via its services which applies indiscriminately to all its customers, as a preventive measure, exclusively at its expense, and for an unlimited period.
The full text of the judgement can be found here.