EU Court Rules Against Mandatory Anti-Piracy Filters For Social Networks
February 17, 2012

EU Court Rules Against Mandatory Anti-Piracy Filters For Social Networks

Social networking websites such as Twitter and Facebook cannot be forced to install anti-piracy filters designed to prevent users from illegally sharing copyrighted materials such as music and videos, the European Union's highest court ruled on Thursday.

The ruling handed down by the EU Court of Justice stated that "the owner of an online social network cannot be obliged to install a general filtering system, covering all its users, in order to prevent the unlawful use of musical and audio-visual work," and that forcing them to monitor such content would violate EU regulations guaranteeing a "fair balance" between copyright protection and freedom to conduct business, according to AFP reports.

The case was filed by Sabam, a Belgian music royalties company, against the social network Netlog, Josh Halliday of the Guardian wrote on Thursday. Sabam had wanted Netlog and other, similar websites to actively monitor the music and video content posted by users in order to make sure that said content did not infringe upon someone else's copyright.

AFP reported that the Sabam had been seeking an injunction to force Netlog to stop allowing members to post copyrighted music and video, as well as pay a $1,300 penalty for every day that it delayed complying with the request. In counter arguments, Netlog said that such an order would create a general obligation to monitor user content, which would violate existing EU e-commerce rules.

"The decision is a victory for operators of social networking sites in the EU, but a setback for those who seek to protect copyrighted material from being distributed without payment or permission," Raphael Satter of the Associated Press (AP) said. "It also comes as protests are growing in Europe against ACTA, the proposed international Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, which is meant to protect intellectual property rights."

"It's good to see courts promoting our rights by swatting away plans to snoop on people's use of social networks," Peter Bradwell, a copyright-reform campaigner with the Open Rights Group, an online freedom, privacy, and consumer rights advocacy organization, added in an interview with Halliday. "It is especially timely because, as seen in agreements like ACTA, policymakers everywhere find it much harder to respect our rights when making intellectual property policy."


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