EU court: Can't force internet providers to stop illegal downloads
LUXEMBOURG, Nov 24, 2011 (dpa - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Internet providers can't be forced to stop illegal downloads on their networks, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled on Thursday.
It was asked to weigh in on the case pitting Sabam, a Belgian music copyright company, against Scarlet Extended, an internet service provider which was being used to illegally download music through a peer-to-peer network.
In a statement, EU judges said that a Belgian court was wrong to accept Sabam's request to force Scarlet to install a filtering system on its network to stop the illegal downloading of music.
This was because EU directives on electronic commerce prevent any "general monitoring of information" transmitted on the internet, and because Scarlet's "freedom to conduct its business" would be seriously limited by the obligation "to install a complicated, costly, permanent computer system at its own expense."
The Luxembourg-based court acknowledged that intellectual property rights -- which are undermined by the illegal downloading of music -- are protected by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU.
"There is, however, nothing whatsoever in the wording of the charter or in the court's case law to suggest that that right is inviolable and must for that reason be absolutely protected," it added.
Judges also noted that the EU Charter includes the right of protection of personal data, which would be undermined by the kind of monitoring system that Scarlet had been asked to install.
The court stressed that its opinion was binding for all EU national courts or tribunals considering similar cases.
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