Once upon a time, broadband ISPs offered unfettered access to sites offering unlicensed, illegally-uploaded content. That is now slowly changing, on both sides of the Atlantic.
In the wake of a momentous ruling against Cox Communications by a federal court judge in the US, the highest court in Germany has now ruled that ISPs will have to block pirate sites, but only other intervention methods fail. Effectively, copyright owners must first take reasonable action against the offending site or hosting provider, but ISPs must block access after those actions fail.
Additionally, the sites themselves must have more illegal content than legal content as a condition for being blocked. “The company offering internet access will only be held responsible for blocking a site when the copyright owners themselves have made reasonable efforts against those that are infringing, like website operators, or those who are facilitating the infringement, like web hosting providers,’ the German Supreme Court ruled.
The German high court also referenced a part of the EU Directive, which calls for ‘intermediaries’ to step in. “Member States shall ensure that rightsholders are in a position to apply for an injunction against intermediaries whose services are used by a third party to infringe a copyright or related right,” the Directive reads.
The obvious result is that GEMA, along with other major content holders, will now start targeted their ‘reasonable efforts’ against the biggest torrent and piracy sites, starting with heavy-hitters like the Pirate Bay and KickassTorrents. It may only be a matter of time before those sites are snipped, though that doesn’t mean they won’t pop up with slightly-different names and locations.
The decision stems from a pair of actions. The first was from German rights society GEMA, which took action against ISP Deutsch Telekom for refusing to block 3DL.am (now offline). A separate action, spearheaded by major labels against O2 Deutschland, was focused on pirate site Goldesel.to.
Image ‘Scales of Justice – Frankfurt Version’ by Michael Coghlan, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC by 2.0).