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no enforced filtering of internet use for ISPs, ECJ rules

20 November 2011

The ECJ has ruled that courts of member states cannot force ISPs into broad filtering and monitoring of their user’s access to copyright-infringing file-sharing websites.

It follows an order by a Belgian court that an ISP (Scarlet) must implement a filtering system to block their user’s ability to send and receive files containing musical works using file-sharing software without the copyright-holders permission.

The ruling does not prevent the blocking of specific illegal file-sharing sites by ISPs as in BT and Newzbin’s case; however the ECJ ruled the filter system ordered in this case, in which the ISP was expected to install the system at its own expense and use it for an unlimited period to indiscriminately monitor all customer’s electronic communications, was contrary to EU law and fundamental rights, including the E-Commerce Directive.

This ruling will be welcomed by both ISPs and campaigners for internet freedom, particularly those following the relationship between the E-Commerce Directive and the Digital Economy Act.

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