European Court Rules Internet Service Providers Can Block Piracy Sites

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The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled on Thursday that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in Europe can legally block piracy sites that illegally distribute copyright-protected material.

The European branch of the Motion Picture Association hailed the verdict as a "proportionate and valid measure" and "an important milestone in the creative industries’ ongoing efforts to curb online piracy."

The verdict sets a clear legal framework across the European Union territories and confirms national court rulings in several territories. The ruling also sends a strong signal to ISPs that website blocking is an effective measure to reduce overall infringement, the MPA said, and that ISP are typically the best-placed to tackle copyright infringement.

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The European court ruled on a case brought back in June 15, 2012 before the Austrian Supreme Court. Distributors Constantin Film and Wega took action against Austrian ISP UPC Telekabel Wien for not blocking acess to kino.to, at the time the largest piracy site in German-speaking Europe  with a top 40 ranking on Alexa.com and up to four million visitors per day. The case went all the way to Europe's supreme court, with the CJEU asking to clarify the legality of site blocking, which Internet freedom advocates have compared to censorship.

Chris Marcich, president and managing director of the MPA EMEA, said the verdict means that rightsholders "will continue to have the ability to secure balanced website blocking orders from national courts across the EU to address infringing sites."

Added Marcich: "I am particularly encouraged by the strong stance the CJEU has taken in relation to the responsibility of intermediaries to address copyright infringement. A sustainable Internet that benefits all must operate fairly, with proportionate and balanced rules. We must all play a constructive role in this aim, including search engines who continue to lead consumers to illegal money-making sites."

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Marcich cited the hard work the movie industry across Europe is carrying out to "develop new, innovative and consumer-friendly platforms delivering the shows and movies that audiences want to see -- whilst ensuring that the creators and makers get compensated for their hard work."

According to MPA figures, citizens in Europe have access to over 3,000 legal on-demand video services.

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