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EU Delves Into Internet Copyright Legal Duties

(CN) - Internet service providers ordered to crack down on copyright-infringing websites must be given explicit instructions, an adviser to Europe's highest court held Tuesday.

The opinion comes in a case where two Austrian film companies sought a court order forcing Internet provider UPC Telekabel Wien to block its users from accessing

Constantin Film Verleih and Wega Filmproduktionsgesellschaft claimed that illegally streams their copyrighted films to UPC's users, although the Internet provider has no direct connection to the website.

A trial court in Austria granted the injunction, and an appellate court upheld the order but gave UPC no specifics on how to carry out the block.

The Austrian Supreme Court asked the Court of Justice of the European Union to weigh in on whether the injunction against UPC meshed with EU copyright law, and whether the Internet provider can be considered an intermediary to the infringement.

In an opinion for the Luxembourg-based high court, Advocate General Pedro Cruz Villalon reminded the Austrian court that EU law already regards Internet service providers as intermediaries when their users access illegal websites. While UPC can be forced to block its users from those sites, however, it must be provided with specific guidelines on what should be done - an IP block or a domain name service block of the offending website.

UPC argued that it the costs of carrying out the blocks were disproportionate and unfair, especially given that even an unsophisticated computer user could easily work around any obstructions the company placed on infringing websites.

Villalon said the national courts must decide what is fair to both UPC and the film companies, within the scope of EU copyright law.

Villalon's opinion is not available in English and is not binding on the Court of Justice, which has begun its own deliberations in the case.


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