ISPs beware in Belgium – court ordered ISP to install filtering software

A brilliant but shy reader of this blog, who is General Counsel at a well known international company passed this news on to me last week.

Just over a month ago on 29 June, the Brussels Court of First Instance issued an order requiring internet service provider Scarlet to cease copyright infringement by allowing customers to transmit infringing material through peer-to-peer software.

In a move which is out of step with most other jurisdictions (see for example my recent post about participatory media and the DMCA in the US), the ISP was held liable and has been ordered to install content filtering software to avoid copyright infringement in the future. The action was brought by SABAM, the author’s rights association.

ISPA Belgium (Internet Service Providers Association of Belgium) has understandably taken issue with the judgment and fired off a stern press release on 16 July.

This is a boon for Audible Magic who, according to the technical expert appointed by the court, currently has the only software which can do the job required. MySpace uses this software.

Some strategic implications:

  • Clearly this one is going to keep going on appeal – but who wants to wait around and do nothing until the final result is known?

  • Who is next? (Providers of platforms for participatory media? – clearly MySpace have decided not to hanging around to see what happens.)

  • A proactive approach would be very worthwhile – crazy as it sounds, consider installing content filtering software now. The podcast I referred to in my earlier post makes it clear that content providers are keen to assist to develop and implement a robust solution, so it seems inevitable.
  • As this takes off, one can expect some secondary turf (ie patent & copyright) disputes over IP protecting the filtering software.
%d bloggers like this: