Social networks can't be forced to police their services for copyrighted material or block users, according to a new ruling from Europe's highest court. The court said that it could not be forced to these things because that burden would drive their costs up and infringe on users' privacy. The Luxembourg-based Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) ruled on a case involving two Belgian companies at odds over copyright infringement: a music royalty collecting society called SABAM and the online social network Netlog. SABAM had asked a Belgian court in 2009 to force Netlog to stop its users from illegally downloading songs from the society's portfolio. The Belgian judges inevitably sought advice from the Luxembourg court. Things didn't turn out for the rights holder in this case.
"The owner of an online social network cannot be obliged to install a general filtering system, covering all its users, in order to prevent the unlawful use of musical and audio-visual work," the ECJ said in a statement. "Such an injunction would result in a serious infringement of Netlog's freedom to conduct its business since it would require Netlog to install a complicated, costly, permanent computer system at its own expense," it said. Judges also noted that forcing a company to install a filter to "identify, analyze and process users' personal information" might infringe on their privacy rights and could result in the blocking lawful content.
In a separate case last year, the ECJ dismissed a bid by SABAM to get Scarlet, a division of Belgian ISP Belgacom, to stop its users from downloading illegal songs.
Source: Technology Spectator