European court rules that ISPs can't filter web content

European court rules that ISPs can't filter web content
Web filtering comes untangled

The European Court of Justice has ruled that ISPs do not have the right to filter out copyright-infringed content from the web, marking a massive win for privacy evangelists and a huge loss for the movie and record industry.

The ECJ stepped in after a Belgian court ruled that rights holders could enforce some sort of filtering system on local ISPs.

This was in reference to a case between Sabam, an audio rights company, and Belgian ISP Scarlet – where Sabam wanted Scarlet to filter out P2P downloads from its service.

The case has been on-going since 2004, so it has taken seven years for the ECJ to agree that for Scarlet to add a filtering system it would be detrimental to its service and cost too much.

Filter free

Although it is not known how the ruling will affect the UK, the ECJ said about the verdict: "EU law precludes an injunction made against an internet service provider requiring it to install a system for filtering all electronic communications passing via its services which applies indiscriminately to all its customers, as a preventive measure, exclusively at its expense and for an unlimited period."

It also noted the effect the block could have had on consumers' privacy.

"Such an 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."

In October, the High Court ruled that BT must block Newzbin2 from its service in a case brought by the Motion Picture Association, due to the site apparently distributing links to pirated movies.


Marc Chacksfield

Marc Chacksfield is the Editor In Chief, at DC Thomson. He started out life as a movie writer for numerous (now defunct) magazines and soon found himself online - editing a gaggle of gadget sites, including TechRadar, Digital Camera World and Tom's Guide UK. At Shortlist you'll find him mostly writing about movies and tech, so no change there then.