THE EUROPEAN Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that it is legal in Europe to force an ISP to block access to a website that it otherwise has no control over.
The ECJ was asked to rule on the issue in relation to a case involving German and Austrian film companies. The companies, Constantin Film Verleih and Wega Filmproduktionsgesellschaft, had an issue with a website called kino.to.
Worried that their content was appearing on that website, they asked the internet service provider (ISP) UPC Telekabel to block access to it. Telekabel was not keen on doing that and complained that with no relationship in place with the website and no obvious technical solution, it was short of options.
"UPC Telekabel also claims that the various blocking measures which may be introduced could, in any event, be technically circumvented. Finally, some of those measures are excessively costly," noted the ECJ in its ruling (PDF).
The Austrian Supreme Court considered the case and then passed it up to the ECJ for its decision. The ECJ's decision is that copyright holders can require an ISP to take action if there is no one else they can hold responsible.
The European Court of Justice began considering the case last year, and at the time ECJ Advocate General Cruz Villalón, a member of the court, was rather positive about delivering satisfaction for content owners.
The ECJ had to decide whether an ISP can be considered an intermediary between rightsholders and copyright infringers, and the court ruled that it can be.
"The Court notes, in that regard, that the directive, which seeks to guarantee a high level of protection of rightholders, does not require a specific relationship between the person infringing copyright and the intermediary against whom an injunction may be issued," it said.
"Nor is it necessary to prove that the customers of the ISP actually access the protected subject matter made accessible on the third party's website, because the directive requires that the measures which the Member States must take in order to conform to that directive are aimed not only at bringing infringements of copyright and of related rights to an end, but also at preventing them."
The short version is that rightsholders can direct their energies at an ISP because the ISP is facilitating a service that they object to. µ