ISPs May Have To Block Illegal Sites, EU Court Aide Says

Liberty Global Plc’s Austrian unit, UPC, and other Internet service providers can be forced to block access to sites that post copyright-infringing material, an adviser to the European Union’s highest court said.

“A specific blocking measure concerning a specific website is not disproportionate, in principle,” Pedro Cruz Villalon, an advocate general at the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg, said in a non-binding opinion today. In light of the facts of each case, national courts should in future seek to achieve the right balance between the rights of the users, the ISP and the copyright owners, he said.

The case was triggered after two companies sought an order to have UPC Austria block access to a website that had posted films online owned by the companies. An Austrian court referred the case to the EU’s top tribunal for guidance on the scope of EU copyright rules and the duties of Internet service providers.

Any blocking mechanism must target illegal material and not access to lawful online content, the court adviser said today. In a case involving Belgacom’s Scarlet in 2011 the EU court ruled that ISPs can’t be forced by a national court to block users from illegally sharing music and video files.

Rulings by the EU court normally follow the opinion within four to six months.