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Sweeping net filters trample ISPs' rights, says Euro beak

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Europe’s Court of Justice has affirmed that blanket monitoring of internet communications breaches fundamental rights. The Court of Justice of the European Union was adjudicating a complaint by a Belgian ISP and copyright royalty collecting society SABEM.

A lower court, the aptly named Court of the First Instance, had ordered ISP Scarlet to clean up its networks and block P2P traffic.

The CJEU concluded that a nation state in Europe couldn’t do that: “EU law precludes an injunction made against an internet service provider requiring it to install a system for filtering all electronic communications passing via its services which applies indiscriminately to all its customers, as a preventive measure, exclusively at its expense, and for an unlimited period.”

Where does it leave copyright holders and ISPs? Pretty much where they were, really.

The higher court pointed out that rights-holders can continue to seek injunctions against infringement. And private agreements – such as self-regulatory arrangements to monitor traffic to a mutually agreed list of pirate websites – aren’t affected.

Despite the bluster from both sides, the differences over copyright enforcement furore are really now quite small. ISPs insist on court orders from rights-holders, so they don't get deluged with a blizzard of notifications. Rights-holders say processing these is costly and slow, and largely ineffective.

A faster and cheaper way of processing notifications through the court system is inevitable, and probably not far away, but neither side can quite agree on the details. ®

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