Saturday, November 26, 2011
Last Thursday, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that a method used by music companies to prevent customers from illegally sharing music files violates customer rights of privacy and the right to impart and receive information. The ECJ also held that the practice interferes with the right to freely do business. The practice ruled illegal was the requirement that internet service providers install filtering systems to monitor electronic communications to ensure that copyrighted music files are not being shared without permission and payment of royalties.
The underlying dispute was between Scarlet, an internet service provider, and SABAM, a Belgium management company that authorizes the use by third parties of musical works. SABAM determined that Scarlet's customers were illegally sharing music files on peer-to-peer networks without permission or payment of royalties. SABAM obtained a court order from a Belgium court directing Scarlet to install a monitoring system to prevent this illegal activity. SABAM appealled to the ECJ, which found that the court injuction did not properly balance intellectual property rights against the rights mentioned above. The ECJ determined that the injunction was overbroad because it required monitoring of all electronic communications by customers, regardless of any indication of wrongdoing, and was not limited in time.
The ECJ press release regarding the case contains more details.