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Internet Trials

The policy debate doesn't always happen within the official policy fora such as European Commission consultations, or Parliamentary committees. Especially when it comes to the Internet and online content. Certain interest groups take it into other venues. The courts are being called on the interpret the law, and the caselaw is used by courts all around Europe in the context of their judgments. This section looks at instances of legal action against Internet providers by private interest groups, or actions by Member States who are implementing laws and initiatives. Iptegrity's concern, as ever, is the protection of the open Internet and free speech. In the courts, this will be addressed in the context of the right to freedom of expression or privacy.


If you are interested in copyright caselaw you may like my book The Closing of the Net which discusses the UK copyright blocking judgments and the Megaupload case in New Zealand.

If you are interested in copyright policy, you may like my previous books A Copyright Masquerade: How Corporate Lobbying Threatens Online Freedoms and The Copyright Enforcement Enigma - Internet Politics and the 'Telecoms Package'

A Belgian  court has agreed with an Internet service provider that filtering content by scanning packets against a database of songs from the company 'Audible Magic' is impossible.

 

The case concerns the ISP Scarlet, which was being sued by the Belgian collecting society Sabam. Last year, the judge had ordered Scarlet, a small ISP, to implement filtering so that copyrighted music content would be identified and downloads prevented. Sabam had brought in the US company Audible Magic and claimed that its technology would work in this context, especially to deal with peer-to-peer downloading. Under the decision, which was handed down on 20 October, the judge has now agreed with Scarlet, that implementation of this kind of filtering is impossible. Scarlet has been released from an obligation to pay fees to Sabam. A further hearing has been scheduled for October next year.

The decision is significant in light of the political discussions within the EU on filtering, and the attempts to weaken provisions in the Telecoms Package to enable filtering ( I will be writing more on this soon.)  It's interesting to note that Sabam was backed by IFPI,  the  recording industry association which is backing other law suits in Europe, including the Eircom case in Ireland and the case against the Pirate Bay in Italy. 

Update: I've now had sight of the court decision. Audible Magic withdrew in April this year, because they could not make their technology work on Scarlet's network, due to an incompatibility in the technology. Scarlet has been asked to look at other filtering technologies. Incredibly, it received a quote of 900,000 Euro from Allot, for a deep packet inspection system that would  'control' peer-to-peer traffic for15,000 users. It it a little hard to understand why the court would insist that it pursues this line, given that these kind of costs must represent a significant percentage of its revenue.

The Pirate Bay has won a reversal of an Italian court ruling which had ordered all Italian ISPs to block access to the site. According to a report in the French newspaper Liberation, the decision was announced on  25th September 2008, by the same court in Bergamo which made the original ruling. The court has apparently decided that the block was unlawful, and it has been lifted. No more details are yet known, but the issues appear to be jurisdiction and whether or not there was contributory infringement on the part of the Pirate Bay. It is understood that the new ruling  will be looked at by a Tribunal of three judges. 

 As previously reported by iptegrity.com, the original ruling had meant that  Italian Internet users who attempted to access the Pirate Bay, were re-directed to a police notice, hosted on a UK server from Reactive Networks, the same hosting company as used by IFPI . The Italian law suit was filed by an IFPI-affiliated anti-piracy organisation. The Pirate Bay had decided in August to appeal against the ruling. 

It is reported that Pirate Bay traffic increased from Italy as a result of the block.  

 The story is also reported on Torrent Freak.  

Promusicae, the Spanish version of IFPI, has filed a claim in a Madrid court against the file-sharing website Blubster. The claim alleges that the site showed "parasitic behaviour" and that it had "commercial intent" with customers paying "from $10,000 per month" in advertising fees.

According to a report in the LA Times , Blubster added a "layer of anonymity" to its file-sharing service, so that it is harder for content companies to track what its users  are doing - and that may well be the real reason why they are prosecuting.  The LA Times article also points out that the case raises similar issues to the Grokster case in the US and the Kazaa case, which was pursued in the US and in Australia. 

 And as anyone in the media industry knows, $10,000 isn't much in terms of  advertising rates - on or off-line.

The IFPI press release concerning the case is available here.  

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About Iptegrity

Iptegrity.com is the website of Dr Monica Horten. I am an  independent policy advisor: online safety, technology and human rights. In April 2024, I was appointed as an independent expert on the Council of Europe Committee of Experts on online safety and empowerment of content creators and users. I am a published author, and post-doctoral scholar. I hold a PhD from the University of Westminster, and a DipM from the Chartered Institute of Marketing. I cover the UK and EU. I'm a former tech journalist, and an experienced panelist and Chair. My media credits include the BBC, iNews, Times, Guardian and Politico.

Iptegrity.com is made available free of charge for non-commercial use. Please link back and attribute Dr Monica Horten.  Contact me to use any of my content for commercial purposes.  

The politics of copyright

A Copyright Masquerade - How corporate lobbying threatens online freedoms

'timely and provocative' Entertainment Law Review