The highest court in Germany says that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) may be forced to block websites that allow people to download illegal music, but only if the copyright holders could prove they had made reasonable attempts to stop piracy by other methods.
The German federal supreme court dismissed two recent cases by music rights society GEMA, against Deutsche Telekom and music companies including Sony and Universal Music, against Telefonica’s O2 Deutschland.
The court said this week that the plaintiffs had not made enough of an effort to stop the copyright violations but it said that ISP companies might be responsible for blocking illegal online music, even if the content could be acquired elsewhere.
GEMA demanded that Deutsche Telekon, the largest telecommunications firm in Germany, should block the 3dl.am website as it allowed users to download copyright protected music. In a related case, music companies wanted O2 Deutschland to block goldesl.to which is part of eDonkey, a peer to peer music sharing site.
The German court said “The company that offers Internet access will only be held responsible for blocking the site when the copyright holder has first made reasonable efforts to take action against those who have themselves infringed their rights, like the website operators, or those who have enabled the infringement, like the Web hosting providers”.
Apparently the music industry loses billions each year from illegal song downloads, the money it says it needs to pay songwriters, artists and talent scouts.
There are many such cases around the world, with courts trying to determine who is responsible for the copyright infringement in the case of illegal downloads. YouTube has already been the subject of court cases involving illegal downloads.
In July, a German court said that YouTube was only responsible for blocking relevant videos when the copyright infringement had been brought to its attention, and it was not expected to scan the entire site.
For its part, Deutsche Telekom said it welcomed the court’s ruling.
“The Supreme Court has clearly stated that with regard to Internet service providers the reasonableness of a potential blocking has to be subject to strict scrutiny”, the company said in a statement.
Bernhard Rohleder, director of IT industry group Bitkom, said: “The blocking of websites should remain the last resort of network policy. As a measure against copyright infringement, it is quite excessive”.
Larry Banks is a keen follower of technology and finance. He has worked for a variety of online publications, writing about a diverse range of topics including mobile networks, patents, and Internet video delivery technologies.