[Ernesto for TorrentFreak, Link (CC-BY)] The German Supreme Court has opened the door for ISP blockades of copyright infringing sites. In a landmark decision the court ruled that ISPs can be required to block websites if copyright holders fail to identify their operators or hosting providers. Domain name blocking has become one of the entertainment industries’ go-to methods for reducing online copyright infringement.
Blocking requests from both the music and movie sector are widespread around Europe, but until now Germany has been excluded.
However, this may soon change. In a landmark ruling the Supreme Court has today opened the door to German pirate site blockades.
The origin of the ruling dates back seven years when German music rights group GEMA, known for its aggressive anti-piracy stance, found music tracks on major file-hosting sites being distributed via the music linking site 3DL.am.
After GEMA failed in its efforts to contact 3DL’s operators to deal with the infringement, the music group tried another tactic.
In a subsequent complaint, GEMA demanded that in order to reduce further copyright infringement, leading German ISP Deutsche Telekom should take technical steps to stop its customers from accessing 3DL.am.
The ISP refused, stating that as a mere ‘dumb pipe’ it has nothing to do with the infringement on the site. Furthermore, blocking one site would simply lead to increasing numbers of similar demands, the ISP argued.
Together with a similar lawsuit against the site Goldesel.to, the case eventually ended up at the Supreme Court which ruled on the issue today.
In its order the court argues that an ISP blockade is warranted if copyright holders have exhausted all their options to identify the operators or hosting providers of pirate sites.
The court also noted that it doesn’t matter if users can circumvent blockades. Simply rendering sites more difficult for the general public to access is sufficient.
GEMA is delighted with the decision and says it will be a great tool to combat online piracy.
“We welcome the judgment of the Supreme Court. This landmark decision was long overdue, since it leads the way in protecting our copyrights in the digital music market,” GEMA CEO Harald Heker says.
“At last we have legal clarity about the fact that ISP blockades of websites that offer illegal copyrighted music works en masse, are permitted. An important step to combat Internet piracy,” he adds.
It’s expected that the first blocking requests will be filed in the near future. While 3DL.am is no longer online, other high-profile pirate sites including The Pirate Bay and KickassTorrents are probably high on GEMA’s wish list.