Belgian Court Finds EU Loophole In ISP File-Sharing Culpability

A judge presiding over a digital copyright case brought by Belgian content owners is challenging a European law on the subject in a move that could have wider repercussions. In the case, the Belgian Society of Authors, Composers and Publishers (SABAM) requested an injunction to stop an ISP, Scarlet Extended, from allowing P2P file-sharing on its network. According to Europe’s E-commerce Directive, ISPs are merely conduits and not culpable for monitoring their customers’ traffic — regardless, the judge in Belgium’s Court of First Instance this month ordered Scarlet Extended to install content filtering software from Audible Magic because “filtering” is different from “monitoring”.

Picky? Tricky, more like – while the decision contradicts one EU ruling it reinforces another; according to the Information Society Directive, copyright owners should be free to seek injunctions against any intermediary for piracy. Scarlet is seeking an appeal, which the Belgian ISP Association said was the best way to resolve the apparent discrepancy between EU law. Out-Law: “There are fears that the ruling could affect other ISP businesses in Belgium and could even prompt a re-evaluation of laws elsewhere in Europe.”