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Court: Swedish ISPs can't be forced to block Sweden's Pirate Bay

Meanwhile, Germany says broadband providers may be liable in piracy claims

By Chris Williams, 28 Nov 2015

In brief ISPs in Sweden cannot be forced to block access to the Pirate Bay – the Swedish search engine used worldwide for pirating software, movies and music.

The District Court of Stockholm ruled on Friday that Swedish ISP Bredbandsbolaget cannot be pressured by copyright holders into preventing subscribers from accessing the infamous website.

The internet provider was found to be exactly that: just a provider of internet access, blindly piping global network traffic to and from its subscribers. That some of the traffic turns out to involve swapping copyrighted files via the Pirate Bay is not Bredbandsbolaget's problem, the court decided.

Universal Music, Sony Music, Warner Music, Nordisk Film and the Swedish Film Industry clubbed together to bring a legal challenge to the ISP – demanding it block access to the website, or cough up damages, hoping the threat would add Sweden to the list of countries that have tried banning the file-sharing search engine. Ultimately, it was dismissed.

“A unanimous district court considers, therefore, that it is not in a position to authorize such a ban as the rights holders want, and therefore rejects their request,” said presiding Chief Magistrate Anders Dereborg.

Meanwhile, over in Germany, the Euro nation's supreme court says ISPs may in future face legal action for allowing their subscribers to pirate copyrighted stuff. Rights holders have to prove they have taken steps to stem or stop copyright infringement before firing up the lawyers, but after that, ISPs could be held liable for failing to block illegal downloads from websites.

The decision came after Universal Music, Sony and Warner Music Group squared up against Telefonica's O2 Deutschland, and music rights holder body GEMA took on Deutsche Telekom, in the courts. Germany's highest court said the entertainment groups hadn't done enough to prevent piracy before suing the telcos.

"The blocking of websites should remain the last resort of network policy," Bernhard Rohleder, director of IT industry group Bitkom, told Reuters on Thursday.

"As a measure against copyright infringement, it is quite excessive." ®

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