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EU high court says ISPs could block piracy sites

The Court of Justice says blocking access to piracy sites is a fine way to safeguard copyright owners. EU nations, now it's up to you.

European Commission

The European Union's highest court, the EU Court of Justice, ruled on Thursday that Internet service providers could reasonably be required to block piracy sites if those pages are found to be violating copyrights.

The ruling is by no means a definitive decision on how ISPs across the European Union should handle piracy sites. The court essentially agreed with its advocate general's office, which laid down a preliminary ruling last year, saying that while blocking piracy sites is permitted, the ultimate decision should be left to courts in member states.

The kerfuffle started last year when UPC Telekabel Wien, an Austrian ISP, argued in court that it should not be compelled to police piracy sites. Two European movie studios have argued that ISPs should be forced to block piracy sites to ensure their customers aren't illegally stealing content.

While the EU's highest court wouldn't go that far, it acknowledged that national courts could make that ruling and force ISPs within their borders to block piracy sites. Those national courts could also, however, not require ISPs to do anything or leave it to them to decide the best course of action.

Copyright owners have long battled in court over the handling of piracy sites. The latest EU ruling essentially leaves it up to individual countries to decide what's best for their copyright holders and ISPs, maintaining a basic status quo.

At this point, no decisions have been made in Austria regarding the UPC case, but the ISP told the Wall Street Journal on Thursday that it was pleased that the EU's highest court has "provided direction on the way such decisions should be taken in the future."