Over the Thanksgiving holiday here in the States found internet service providers (ISPs) along with their users across the pond in Europe with reason to also give thanks. As the highest court in the European Union (EU) decided to overturn a ruling that would have forced the Belgian ISPs to preemptively filter Internet traffic to prevent ah what, well let’s see the unauthorized sharing of music files. Ok, disclaimer, here that piracy is wrong, however we are going to put the brakes on the information super highway over this! Folk let’s get real, here as we have world hunger, AIDS, cancer and so on to solve and we are still talking about music sharing?
As here is where I credit the European Court of Justice for overturning a basically rogue ruling by a Belgian court in a suit brought by the Belgian Society of Authors, Composers and Publishers (SABAM). As it seems that SABAM had filed suit against Scarlet Extended over its alleged illegal peer-to-peer file sharing capabilities which were being used by Scarlet’s customers. From that case there was a 2007 ruling which required Scarlet to filter traffic on its network, so that it could seek out and block illegal peer to peer file sharing traffic. As the lower court’s ruling was based on an interpretation of Belgian copyright laws which appeared to place the burden of enforcement on ISPs rather then the folks committing ill deed.
To this travesty, the ISP had appealed by focusing on European data privacy laws, saying in essence that the ruling would in effect force the company to monitor all Internet traffic (i.e. be Big Brother) passing through its network as this would clearly be technically unfeasible as well as violate the privacy of its customers.
Contained in its ruling, The High Court did uphold the right of copyright holders to file injunctions against intermediaries over action of illegal file sharing. Yet it struck down the provisions from the prior Belgian court ruling that required filtering, as it pointed out that the filtering provisions violated European Union e-commerce laws, as well as infringed on the rights of both the ISP and its customers. As it furthered its position by saying that broad monitoring required to filter file-sharing would “infringe the fundamental rights of [Scarlet’s] customers, namely their right to protection of their personal data and their right to receive or impart information, which are rights safeguarded by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU,” so said the judge(s). One step for an ISP, yet a giant leap for mankind in the protection of the Internet as if you lose an inch it might as well be a mile because that’s next…