from the good-news dept
A few months back we noted that the European Court of Justice had ruled that ISPs couldn't be required to set up a filtering system designed to catch copyright infringement. The case involved Belgian anti-piracy organization/collection agency SABAM, which had demanded that a local ISP proactively filter against infringement. Apparently, SABAM didn't limit this strategy just to ISPs, but also brought similar efforts against online sites and social networks, including local social network Netlog. That case followed a similar trajectory, and now the EU Court of Justice has issued a similar ruling noting that an online site can't be forced to proactively monitor for infringement because that infringes on too many other rights. The court's press release (pdf) is worth reading:
In the main proceedings, the injunction requiring the installation of a filtering system would involve monitoring all or most of the information stored by the hosting service provider concerned, in the interests of the copyright holders. Moreover, that monitoring would have to have no limitation in time, be directed at all future infringements and be intended to protect not only existing works, but also works that have not yet been created at the time when the system is introduced. Accordingly, such an injunction would result in a serious infringement of Netlog’s freedom to conduct its business since it would require Netlog to install a complicated, costly, permanent computer system at its own expense.Here's another good court ruling against the massive overreach of the entertainment industry, as they seek to bend and break the internet so that it acts more like how they want it, rather than how everyone else wants it to work.
Moreover, the effects of that injunction would not be limited to Netlog, as the filtering system may also infringe the fundamental rights of its service users - namely their right to protection of their personal data and their freedom to receive or impart information - which are rights safeguarded by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. First, the injunction would involve the identification, systematic analysis and processing of information connected with the profiles created on the social network, that information being protected personal data because, in principle, it allows those users to be identified. Second, that injunction could potentially undermine freedom of information, since that system might not distinguish adequately between unlawful content and lawful content, with the result that its introduction could lead to the blocking of lawful communications.
Consequently, the Court’s answer is that, in adopting an injunction requiring the hosting service provider to install such a filtering system, the national court would not be respecting the requirement that a fair balance be struck between the right to intellectual property, on the one hand, and the freedom to conduct business, the right to protection of personal data and the freedom to receive or impart information, on the other.