EU Court Of Justice Says Social Networks Can't Be Forced To Be Copyright Cops

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.

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.

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.

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Companies: netlog, sabam

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Comments on “EU Court Of Justice Says Social Networks Can't Be Forced To Be Copyright Cops”

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fiestachickens (profile) says:

Costly system?

What do you mean a “costly system”?!

It’s abundandtly clear what is copyrighted material! There are no gray areas, copyright holders never claim ownership incorrectly, and they only want to share their content and make a modest living while they’re at it.

Given that there ate clear lines of what is and isn’t copyrighted, I imagine the system is both simple and inexpensive to implement and maintain.

Wow. Playing the other side like that is seeing the world through a crazy person’s eyes. …I feel dirty.

Anonymous Coward says:

although i think the ruling is correct and very welcome, my concern with this is how many EU countries are going to take any notice? they all seem to carry on doing their own thing, introducing their own laws, implementing their own restrictions (including website blocking and 3 strikes regimes) as and when they like. France (3 strikes) and the UK (website blocking and take downs on accusation, without any trial) are typical examples! also, how long before there is an appeal, or some slightly different worded demand (giving the same end result) from the entertainment industries? everyone knows the rules. just keep appealing and ‘encouraging’ the rule makers until the result is what is wanted!

Anonymous Coward says:

In an unrelated note, if corporations are people and have rights maybe we should vote Google into presidency 🙂

Look at the avatar of the guy who made that post on the Popsci website, the is just funny.

Anonymous Coward says:


Such an index is meaningless, considering all the copyright extension acts of the bast 50 years everything is under copyright. Just because its under copyright, doesn’t make it magically illegal.

I can see five cyberlockers and one real locker on an airport with the move Avatar inside for storage, now prove for a fact that they don’t have the right to be there. Only a judge reviewing per-case bases can make that judgment, not a private entity.

Anonymous Coward says:


There are 2 countries in the EU that are a threat to democracy and those are UK and France.

British people are lovely, the French are abrasive but not bad just different now their governments that is another matter altogether, the UK sleepwalked into an Orwellian state, most Britons feel uncomfortable with their own government, but they would not say this in public and it is actually a place where you can forget something and come back later and you would find that thing still there, most Britons have a high regard for others people belongs and most of them also would not think twice about pirating anything, they would and they do it is not property and people know that, but the government is under the idea that if they allow competition with free it will reduce economic activity, the government want to force the people to spent money because that is where all their income comes from. If people don’t spend and they don’t keep creating new ways to get people to move money that then they can tax the UK then has a problem in their eyes, what they apparently don’t see is that a granted monopoly actually reduces economic activity and make people more cautious about how they spend on things since if you commit to something that is overpriced you will tend to try and maintain it instead of replacing it, they actually harm their own revenues stream by allowing monopolistic idiots to dictate what they want.

DannyB (profile) says:

Costly system?

Continuing to play the other side for a moment . . .

If an automated system can automatically detect copyright infringement, then it is the copyright owners’ job to use such an economical system to police its own works. It’s not everyone else’s job to police your copyrights.

If it is indeed possible (and it is not) to know what is and is not infringement (even major copyright holders can’t even tell when a copyright work online is their own effort or an infringement) then that further supports the notion that the copyright holders should identify what is and is not infringing.

Finally, if there are to be severe penalties for infringement, there should also be severe penalties for false takedown requests. No due process is necessary. There should be absolutely no way whatsoever for the issuer of a false takedown request to defend themselves — even if they might have a legitimate defense.

Anonymous Coward says:

“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”

Corrupt Gov officials are in it for the bribes, the rest are thinking this will be a nice tool, to give us more control in the future

USA government, 1 year from know
“We are reprimanding this tool, to ferret out traitors in our population, we will not stand for any false(true) slurs(facts) on the US government”

Their response to the uproar
“If it was ok for copyrights, then its more then enough for local terrorism(free speech)

Violated (profile) says:


I have never seen the Digital Economy Act as a scheme that will ever be successful. The DEA was debated by the ignorant, passed by the absent and being implemented by the unwilling.

The scheme is going to cost so much that only the richest rights owners will be able to afford it. Not to forget “innocent until proven guilty” turns into “guilty with every innocent excuse stripped down to the bare minimum”.

Then it comes under attack many times when it comes to any thought of public rights. Even within Government different departments are opposed about what to do. Then today the European Court of Justice makes clear that public rights should always come before copyright enforcement.

Considering the SOPA, PIPA and ACTA protests then UK Government are playing with fire. They had better hope that the UK population do not get annoyed and strike back.

Their best option is to just dig a big hole and bury the DEA in it, walk away whistling, then pretend it never happened.

Anonymous Coward says:

Burden of policing is on copyright holders themselves

Correct. Power and responsibility should always go together. Only the copyright owners have the power to decide whether something is infringing or not. Therefore they should not be allowed to push the responsibility off to anybody else. All this stuff trying to get service providers to decide infringement is an attempt to saddle them with responsibility without them having the power.

Authority and responsibility must be equal — else a balancing takes place as surely as current flows between points of unequal potential. To permit irresponsible authority is to sow disaster; to hold a man responsible for anything he does not control is to behave with blind idiocy. — Robert A. Heinlen, “Starship Troopers”

Nele says:

Same SABAM to be charged with fraud, abuse of trust, and not properly distributing the money it collects on behalf on authors

By the way, SABAM was also just told it will have to defend itself in a Belgian court over charges of fraud, abuse of trust of its members, and shrinking the pool of collected money that it was supposed to distribute to the creators it claims to represent through “indefensible payments to board members and an extra-legal pension fund”.

Dutch article:

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