Those hoping that the European Court of Justice would give the fight against anti-piracy a boost have been left disappointed after the legal body ruled that internet service providers cannot be compelled to install filters to prevent illegal downloads.
The Court of Justice took the view that it was disproportionate to expect ISPs to use filtering technology in a ruling on the Sabam versus Netlog case, a Belgium ISP accused of not doing enough to stop illegal downloads.
Sabam, a music royalty body in Belgium, had been going after lost revenue but the failure of its case to win the day will have repercussions for the software industry, particularly if they had hopes that filters could be used to block the downloads of specific file types.
"The SABAM ruling is a further blow to the rights owners. The European Court appears to have ruled out the idea that operators of social network sites and ISPs can be forced - at their own expense - to impose blanket monitoring and filtering aimed at stopping infringements," said Michael Gardner, head of the intellectual property practice at London law firm Wedlake Bell.
"The ruling doesn't stop rights owners seeking more limited injunctions against social networking sites or ISPs, but they will have to be more "proportionate" in scope and effect," he added
"Under EU law, there has to be a balance between the interests of copyright owners and the rights of privacy and freedom of expression. So far, the Courts seem to have rejected the draconian solutions urged on them by the rights owners," he said.