ISPs may have to block music-sharing sites: Germany’s highest court

The logo of O2 Deutschland. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

Germany’s highest court said Internet service providers could be made responsible for blocking websites offering illegal music downloads, but only if copyright holders showed they had first made reasonable attempts to thwart such piracy by other means.

The federal Supreme Court dismissed two cases brought by music rights society GEMA against Deutsche Telekom and music companies Universal Music, Sony and Warner Music Group against Telefonica’s O2 Deutschland.

It said on Thursday the plaintiffs did not make enough effort to halt the copyright violations in the first place but it said Internet service providers could in principle be held responsible for blocking music illegally available on the Internet, even if the content remained available elsewhere.

GEMA, which acts to protect the rights of the owners of musical works, had demanded that Deutsche Telekom, Germany’s largest telecoms company, block the website “3dl.am” because it offered access to copyright-protected music.

In a separate case, the music companies wanted O2 Deutschland to block access to “goldesel.to,” part of the eDonkey network, a peer-to-peer file-sharing network for music.

The court said in its ruling: “The company that offers Internet access will only be held responsible for blocking the site when the copyright holder has first made reasonable efforts to take action against those who have themselves infringed their rights, like the website operators, or those who have enabled the infringement, like the Web hosting providers.”

The music industry says it loses billions of dollars every year from the illegal downloading of songs, depriving it of the revenue it needs to pay songwriters, artists and talent scouts.

Courts around the world are grappling with the question of who is responsible for copyright infringement through illegal downloads. Google’s YouTube, for example, has been the subject of multiple court cases.

A German court ruled in July that YouTube was only responsible for blocking copyright-infringing videos when they had been brought to its attention, and could not be expected to scan everything on the site.

Deutsche Telekom welcomed the court ruling.

“The Supreme Court has clearly stated that with regard to Internet service providers the reasonableness of a potential blocking has to be subject to strict scrutiny,” the company said in a statement.

Bernhard Rohleder, director of IT industry group Bitkom, said: “The blocking of websites should remain the last resort of network policy. As a measure against copyright infringement, it is quite excessive.”

(Reporting by Norbert Demuth, Peter Maushagen, Writing by Kirsti Knolle, Editing by David Evans)

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Reuters

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In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

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  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
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