A Belgian ISP ordered by a court to stop all piracy on its network, only to discover that it was an impossible task, has seen that decision reversed. The court recognized that the anti-piracy solutions recommended by the music industry didn’t work, which left the ISP Scarlet in an impossible position.
In 2007 legal case involving Belgian ISP Scarlet and music copyright group SABAM, a court ruled that ISPs could be forced to stop people committing copyright infringement on P2P networks. The judge in the case took the advice offered by the music industry, who claimed it was possible for ISPs to stop illegal file-sharing using a system called Audible Magic. Scarlet was given 6 months to comply. It was to prove impossible.
A year later, Scarlet’s lawyers were back in court. The court previously ordered that Scarlet has to pay compensation of 2,500 Euros for every day they failed to stop file-sharers sharing files, but the company’s lawyers argued it was impossible to comply, since the anti-piracy system ‘Audible Magic’ they were told to use by the court (on the advice of the music industry and SABAM), simply did not work.
Now, having heard a lawyer for SABAM admit that they had misled the court over the effectiveness of Audible Magic, the judge in the case has reversed the ruling. The final ruling in the case is due in October 2009 at the court of appeal in Brussels, so until then, the judge decided that Scarlet are no longer subject to the 2,500 Euros per day fine, which had already reached around 750,000 Euros.
This year, several music industry lobby groups have spoken out in favor of content filters. They argue that ISPs have the responsibility to prevent their customers from accessing copyrighted works, and thus act as a virtual police force. Earlier this year, IFPI took the Irish ISP Eircom to court for this reason. In addition, IFPI asked the European Parliament to adopt legislation that would make such filters mandatory, and to block entire websites including The Pirate Bay.
Luckily, the European Parliament decided that anti-piracy filters were not appropriate. In addition, it later ruled that other anti-piracy measures, such as “three-strikes” laws are too strict as well, as such policies restrict the rights and freedoms of Internet users. In the light of these recent developments, and because it is simply impossible for any ISP to filter transfers of copyrighted works on their network, Scarlet has a good chance to win their appeal next year.