updated 03:00 pm EST, Thu November 24, 2011
EU prevents SOPA-style law targeting ISPs
The European Union's Court of Justice ruled in a Belgian dispute Thursday that Internet providers couldn't be forced to block sites on the media industry's behalf. Officials determined that Belgium's court and local music royalty agency SABAM would be violating EU law if they made Belgian ISP Scarlet install devices to block subscribers from seeing and downloading what are believed to be pirated songs. Any system would violate the "fundamental rights" of users to private data and to send or receive information.
It's not clear if SABAM can or will appeal the ruling.
The decision follows a resolution that would ban outside web seizures and makes a law like the US' proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) virtually impossible. SOPA was conceived primarily by politicians sympathetic to music and movie labels who believe they can eliminate piracy through censorship using blacklists. Under the scope of the current bill, any site that has what's believed to be pirated material, even legal sites where a user posts material without knowledge, could be blocked from access in the US within a matter of days without significant recourse.
Critics of SOPA, and of attempts like those by SABAM, have noted that the measures would be end-runs around safe harbor principles by requiring that they monitor for any and every possible instance of piracy. Google at a hearing on SOPA also warned of political consequences, noting that illegal content, real or imagined, could be used as a pretext to take down a dissenting view or a political opponent.