European Court Rules That ISPs Can't Stalk Pirates

Filtering and monitoring systems pose a threat to privacy and freedom

The European Court of Justice has put an end to a 7-year battle between an ISP and a music rights group, setting a precedent for cases where internet service providers are forced to spy on their account holders.

According to TorrentFreak, the Belgian music rights group SABAM was trying to make ISP Scarlet stalk their customers and block their connections if they were caught committing piracy acts.

In 2007, thee years after the trial began, SABAM had a small victory, but since their fingerprinting system didn't perform as expected, the decision was reversed and the trial moved to the Brussels Court of Appeal and then to the European Court Of Justice.

Now, the European Court ruled that the filtering and monitoring systems required by SABAM would not only be hard to implement, but they would also represent a breach of privacy and a violation of fundamental rights.

The court also noted that the computer system that Scarlet would have to implement is contrary to an EU Directive stating that copyright protection measures must not be complicated or costly.

The conclusion of this case that made both ISPs, their customers and privacy groups happy is that proactive filters would violate their “right to protection of personal information and their freedom to receive and impart information.”

There was also the matter of the efficiency of the system proposed by SABAM. The court feared that it would be incapable of pinpointing precisely if the material downloaded by the account holders was pirated or not.

Recent situations showed that many believed such filtering and monitoring systems to be the answer when it came to stopping online piracy, but in practice, it's close to impossible to develop a software that's 100% accurate. If the system is inaccurate, it means that it could not only hurt the internet users, but also artists who might be offering their works for free.

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