European Internet service providers can be legally required to deny their customers access to websites which infringe copyright, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled on Thursday.
The Court upheld the decision of an Austrian court to compel an ISP to deny its customers access to a website. It found that Austrian ISP UPC Telekabel could be ordered to steer Internet users away from content which had been posted illegally, even if the ISP had no financial connection with the website behind the publication.
The Austrian Supreme Court (Oberster Gerichtshof ) had asked CJEU to interpret the EU Copyright Directive and basic rights enshrined in EU legislation. The directive provides for the possibility for rightholders to apply for an injunction against intermediaries whose services are used by a third party to infringe their rights. Previously, the Austrian court had found that an injunction against ISPs to deny access to websites was within EU laws and regulations.
However, CJEU court found ISPs must ensure that blocking access to websites not deprive users "of the possibility of lawfully accessing the information available." The court found that copyright and intellectual property outweighed the "freedom to conduct a business" which ISPs had argued protected them from acting on court injunctions.
The Court noted, in that regard, that the directive "does not require a specific relationship between the person infringing copyright and the intermediary against whom an injunction may be issued. Nor is it necessary to prove that the customers of the ISP actually access the protected subject - matter made accessible on the third party’s website, because the directive requires that the measures which the (EU) Member States must take in order to conform to that directive are aimed not only at bringing infringements of copyright and of related rights to an end, but also at preventing them."