Europeans will have to filter pirate sites

It is starting to look like EU ISPs will have to automatically filter pirate sites.

Thge European Court of Justice, while mulling over an Austrian case, has ruled that EU countries can ask carriers to block copyright infringers, whether the networks are involved or not.

The decision, which confirms an opinion late last year, follows a dispute between two movie companies – Germany’s Constantin Film Verleih and the catchily titled Wega-Filmproduktionsgesellschaft – and internet provider Telekabel Wien.

Telekabel has lost its case, in which it argued that it shouldn’t have to block access to streaming site, as it wasn’t responsible for the site’s actions.

 “An ISP, such as UPC Telekabel, which allows its customers to access protected subject-matter made available to the public on the internet by a third party is an intermediary whose services are used to infringe a copyright,” the court ruled. In other words, the EU’s laws do not require governments to limit injunctions to just, the parties directly linked to a case.

This is bad news for online free speech advocates because it gives the thumbs up to governments who want to block sites. ISPs are also unlikely to be happy they may have to pay extra to obey local content restriction orders.

Big Content is over the moon because encouraging governments to crack down on pirates is easier than trying to bend the law to its will.

The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry is delighted and claimed that national censorship was consistent with fundamental rights under EU law, and additionally confirming that copyright is itself a fundamental right requiring protection.

Now it is up to the Austrian government to decide if it wants to go ahead with the move. It makes no difference to the British government which has been blocking everything that moves for a while now.