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ECJ Rules Against Copyright Filters

In a judgment handed down last Thursday, the European Court of Justice made a landmark decision in relation to file sharing.

The ECJ ruled last week that web hosting companies and services could not be compelled to install filtering software in the search for uploaded content in potential copyright infringement. It ruled that such an order would threaten the proportion the ability of rights holders to protect their copyright, and the right to entrepreneurship.

The court had been asked to rule on the original case, known as the ‘Scarlet ruling’, where music rights group SABAM were told it could not ask internet service providers to deliver blanket bans on file-sharing.

The court was asked whether EU directives authorised a court to order web hosts to impose a copyright filtering system.

According to the Luxembourg court “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.”

The ECJ went on to add that any domestic court which granted such an injunction “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”.

TJ McIntyre of the Digital Rights Ireland group said the ruling was “not that exciting in its own right”, describing it as a “copy and paste” of the Scarlet ruling.

The ruling comes as junior research minister Seán Sherlock prepares controversial secondary legislation which will allow copyright holders to seek injunctions blocking access to certain websites.

Lisa Gorry

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