The European Court of Justice has ruled that ISPs in Europe can legally block piracy sites illegally distributing copyright material. The Court was ruling on a case from June 2012 before the Austrian Supreme Court, which asked the ECJ to interpret European copyright law.
A distributor filed suit against Austrian cable operator UPC Telekabel Wien for not blocking access to kino.to, a main piracy site in German-speaking countries. Although the Austrian courts ruled UPC Telekabel should block access to the site, which was closed down in 2011 following police action, UPC Telekabel argued that blocking measures could be evaded by downloaders and would be “excessively costly”. UPC Telekabel argued that it did not have any business relationship with the piracy site and it could not be established that its own customers acted unlawfully.
The ECJ concluded that a “person who makes protected subject-matter available to the public on a website without the agreement of the right holder is using the services of the business which provides internet access to persons accessing that subject-matter. Thus, an ISP that allows its subscribers to access protected subject-matter made available to the public on the internet by a third party is an intermediary whose services are used to infringe a copyright.