Belgian ISP responsible for file-sharing, says court

A court has ruled that the Belgian ISP Scarlet Extended is responsible for blocking illegal file-sharing on its network, setting a precedent that could affect other ISPs in Europe, a recording industry group, quoted by an InfoWorld report said.

The report said Belgium's Court of First Instance has given the Internet service provider six months to install technology to prevent its customers from sharing pirated music and video files, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry said.

If it fails to do so it will be fined 2,500 euros ($3,400) per day, according to the ruling, the InfoWorld report said.

The music industry has long sought to hold ISPs responsible for illegal file-sharing on their networks, although in the US it has been largely unsuccessful. ISPs have argued that they provide a service like a post office or a telephone company, and shouldn't be required to police the traffic on their networks, the report said.

The Brussels ruling is based on Belgium's interpretation of the European Union's Information Society Directive, often called the EU copyright directive, and as such could set a precedent for other cases in Europe, the IFPI said.

The ruling surprised at least one legal expert, who said ISPs elsewhere in Europe would be 'horrified' by it, the report said.

The copyright directive is not supposed to supersede the terms of an earlier EU directive, the E-Commerce Directive, which includes a 'mere conduit' defense that shields ISPs from responsibility for what happens on their networks, said Struan Robertson, senior associate with Pinsent Masons and editor of the legal web site Out-law.com.

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