A new court ruling in Sweden has cast doubt on the possibility that German ISPs might be required to block pirate sites.
TorrentFreak reports that a district court in Stockholm has ruled that copyright holders could not force the Swedish ISP Bredbandsbolaget to block The Pirate Bay.
The Pirate Bay is blocked by dozens of ISPs around Europe but anti-piracy outfits have always hoped that one day the notorious site would be rendered inaccessible in Sweden, its country of origin.
To that end, Universal Music, Sony Music, Warner Music, Nordisk Film and the Swedish Film Industry teamed up in a lawsuit last year designed to force Swedish ISP Bredbandsbolaget (Broadband Company) to block the site.
They claimed that the ISP should be held liable for the infringements of its customers, unless it blocks Pirate Bay.
The Court reports that the case was heard in light of an EU directive which notes that member states shall ensure that rightholders have the possibility to ask for an injunction against intermediaries whose services are used by a third party to commit copyright infringement.
Like the German court ruling from earlier today, this case claimed that by not blocking the pirate sites, the ISP was guilty of third-hand copyright infringement. The media companies were blaming the ISP not for its own actions, nor the acts of its users, but for the possible piracy of another site elsewhere on the web.
The courts disagreed. In the ruling, the court said that Bredbandsbolaget was not liable under Swedish law. “A unanimous District Court considers, therefore, that it is not in a position to authorize such a ban as the rights holders want and therefore rejects their request,” said presiding Chief Magistrate Anders Dereborg.
Since this is a district court, it's obviously not the last time we're going to be reading about this. The media companies or the ISP will appeal this case upwards until it gets to the Supreme Court of Sweden. By the time that happens, a similar case in the Netherlands will likely have reached the European Court of Justice, resulting in a verdict that will render this particular case moot.
The European Union doesn't have the DMCA, and its safe harbor provision, like we do in the US. The safe harbor protects ISPs from liability so long as they comply with certain requirements in taken action against their users who commit piracy.
Alas, the safe harbor provision only goes so far, as Cox learned to its dismay last week. A Philadelphia judge ruled that the ISP had not taken enough steps to deal with the pirates who used its service, and stripped Cox of its best legal defense.
That case is ongoing, but if it continues to go against Cos then it will likely lead to US-based ISPs getting more aggressive against pirates.
image by n.bhupinder