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EU court: Social networks can't be forced to monitor users

The European Court of Justice says forcing social networks to install monitoring solutions to prevent piracy is illegal.

The European Union's highest court says social networks cannot be forced to monitor users just to stop piracy.

The European Court of Justice ruled today that forcing social networks to install monitoring systems just to see if people are illegally downloading copyrighted material creates a "complicated" and "costly" burden on the sites for little or no upside. The court was also concerned about the privacy of user data.

The court made a similar ruling in November, protecting the rights of Internet dervice providers, who argued that they shouldn't be forced to filter Web content for the sole purpose of stopping piracy.

Dow Jones Newswires was the first to report on this story.

The court's ruling came after a Belgian copyright manager, SABAM, filed a lawsuit against social network Netlog NV, claiming the site allowed users to access pirated content. The organization asked a Belgian court for 1,000 euros ($1,300) per day in fines.

Today's ruling is notable for coming just after two anti-piracy bills--the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA)--became hot-button issues across the Web. Lawmakers who supported the bills wanted to give U.S. law enforcement the ability to all but erase sites from the Web that allegedly contain pirated material. Critics, like Google and Wikipedia, however, argued that such power could put legitimate sites in danger.

After several prominent online companies staged a day-long blackout last month, lawmakers who supported SOPA and PIPA decided to put the bills on ice, saying would try to create bills that critics could accept.