Big Content verboten to outsource piracy enforcement

Liberty-Net-His-Masters-VoiceThe highest court in Germany has decided that ISPs might have to act as Big Content’s┬ácensors and block websites offering illegal music downloads, but only as a last resort.

The Federal Supreme Court said was that the copyright holders showed have to show they made reasonable attempts to thwart such piracy by other means and that might be a little difficult.

The court felt that Big Content was trying to outsource its enforcement to the ISPs and said that it was not doing enough itself to stop pirates.

The federal Supreme Court dismissed two cases brought by music rights society GEMA against Deutsche Telekom and music companies Universal Music, Sony and Warner Music Group against Telefonica’s O2 Deutschland.

It said on Thursday the plaintiffs did not make enough effort to halt the copyright violations in the first place but said Internet service providers could in principle be held responsible for blocking music illegally available on the Internet, even if the content remained available elsewhere.

GEMA, which acts to protect the rights of the owners of musical works, had demanded that Deutsche Telekom, Germany’s largest telecoms company, block the website “3dl.am” because it offered access to copyright-protected music.

In a separate case, the music companies wanted O2 Deutschland to block access to “goldesel.to,” part of the eDonkey network, a peer-to-peer file-sharing network for music.

The court said in its ruling: “The company that offers Internet access will only be held responsible for blocking the site when the copyright holder has first made reasonable efforts to take action against those who have themselves infringed their rights, like the website operators, or those who have enabled the infringement, like the Web hosting providers.”

The music industry says it loses billions of dollars every year from the illegal downloading of songs, depriving it of the revenue it needs to pay songwriters, artists, talent scouts, and people who come to install large swimming pools.

Big Content is not having a good time in Germany. A German court ruled in July that YouTube was only responsible for blocking copyright-infringing videos when they had been brought to its attention, and could not be expected to scan everything on the site.