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Novell wins copyright case against ISP

Belgian service provider told he has legal duty to police user activity

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A Belgian Internet Service Provider (ISP) has been convicted of copyright infringement after subscribers to a bulletin board were found to be using the service to upload copies of Novell software. Novell is heralding the conviction as a landmark case in the fight against software piracy. The owner of the service, Renaat C, was fined BF500,000 in Hasselt Criminal Court – believed to be the largest fine set by a Belgian court for copyright infringement. The case will have implications for any ISP that finds its service being abused by subscribers. Renaat C had claimed that it was unreasonable for him to be held responsible for the actions of people using his Point Break service. Even if he had wanted to monitor and control the content of their postings, he argued, the time taken to do so would have made the task impossible. Judge Van Coppenolle dismissed these claims saying that the time taken to perform such duties did not impinge on their legal requirement. Novell, naturally, was tickled pink by the ruling. Martin Smith, head of the company’s anti-piracy unit, said: “This judgement is an important milestone. There can be no doubt that high volume of traffic does not remove the liability of the service provider to ensure that copyrighted software and other materials receive adequate protection.” ®

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