Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Belgian court to ISPs: prevent sharing illegal content

An ISP is fully responsible for illegal file-sharing activities on their networks. That is the ruling of a Brussels based court last week. The case had been brought by SABAM, the Belgian society of authors, composers and publishers, against the local ISP Scarlet. The case was presented to the court in 2004, originally against the ISP Tiscali and its 60.000 subscribers, which was acquired by Scarlet in November 2004.

The judge had already decided that the subscribers of the ISP infringed on copyright with p2p network software like Bittorrent and eDonkey. He recognised that p2p technology can be used for transferring legal and illegal content. He made the ISP responsible for the transfer and demanded a technical solution. An expert was asked to study the technical feasibility. In January this year the expert reported to the court and offered a report with eleven technical solutions, of which 7 were applicable to the network of Scarlet. But 6 solutions would block all content, legal and illegal, and would be unworkable as downloading open-source software through p2p networks would become impossible.

The preferred choice of SABAM looks to be a solution of Audible Magic (see diagram). This system checks content by filtering the content and looking for digital fingerprints of copyright protected music and movie files. The software does not filter out all the illegal content yet, but it already blocks 70 percent of illegal content. The ISP has six month in order to decide and install a solution. If after the 6 months Scarlet has not complied with the ruling, then SABAM can demand a penalty of 2500 euro per day.

This ruling can be a landmark ruling not only for Belgium, but also for the European Union. SABAM will be able to persecute any ISP in Belgium waving the verdict of the Brussels court. But the European societies could put a case to the European court.

It looks like Belgium is the country where legal internet history will be written for the second time. Having handed down the ruling on p2p network sharing software, another Belgian court will be faced with an appeal by Google in the case of the French and German language newspapers.

Last September a Belgian court ruled that Google infringed on the copyright of the Belgian French and German language newspapers by copying their articles for the Google News service. Google was ordered to stop copying the newspaper articles on a penalty of 1 million euro a day. Last February Google lost again a case against the organisation Copiepresse, in which the newspaper publishers are united. Despite the fact that Google is negotiating an agreement, Google is appealing the ruling. The appeal will take place on July 17, 2007. This appeal will be the last stage in the copyright fight and will yield a principal ruling for the newspaper publishers as well for Google. If this appeal ruling is favourable for the newspaper, Google will have to act fast, if it does not want to be in court in the European continental countries.

Blog Posting Number: 808

Tags: copyright, newspapers, p2p, ,

1 comment:

rich said...

Jak - this is great summary of the issues; Belgium is definitely the hotbed for Internet legal cases.

There might be a more net-friendly way to solve this - Attributor (full disclosure that I work for them!) has started allowing beta customers into its service giving content creators and publishers visibility of all re-use.

The Associated Press is our first announced text based monitoring customer and we are testing image and video monitoring as well.

Many customers are asking for a compliance service like Audible Magic's as well, and we are evaluating that opportunity.

Lots to do, and we'll be watching Belgium closely as it looks like a busy summer awaits.