Minister welcomes European court ruling against filtering content

16 Feb 2012

The Minister for Research and Innovation Sean Sherlock said he “welcomed” a decision from the European Court of Justice which ruled that social networks cannot be obliged to install a filter for user-generated content to prevent copyright infringement, saying it will guide Irish courts when looking into similar matters. Sherlock was responsible for the handling of a recent statutory instrument dubbed ‘Ireland’s SOPA.’

Sherlock refers to the ruling by the European Court of Justice, which decided that social networks couldn’t be forced to install a system for filtering content to prevent unlawful use of musical and audio-visual work.

The ruling emerged from a case where music management firm SABAM claimed that social network Netlog allows users to make its portfolio of works available through their profiles without consent or without paying a fee.

However, the European Court of Justice decided that granting an injunction against Netlog would mean it would have to prescreen all user content. It believes this would not respect the balance between copyright holders and users and would impact the right to protect personal data, the freedom to conduct business and the freedom to receive or impart information.

“I welcome today’s decision from the European Court of Justice. This will provide further clarity to Irish courts in adjudicating such matters,” said Sherlock.

In the statement, he pointed out that the decision applies the principles seen in the recent ‘Scarlet Case’ to hosting service providers, where the court also stated that a fair balance was needed between protecting copyright holders and protecting the fundamental rights of users affected by these rulings.

Ireland’s SOPA

Sherlock was responsible for the handling of a recent statutory instrument which caused controversy across the web and was dubbed ‘Ireland’s SOPA.’

The statutory instrument concerned a change to the Copyright Act 2000 to correct a loophole in the legislation. It stemmed from a court case between UPC and IRMA in 2010, where the presiding judge Mr Justice Peter Charleton pointed out that existing legislation did not give him the power to grant injunctions against ISPs because the European directive had not been fully transposed.

This could give record labels motive to sue the Irish Government if the statutory instrument isn’t passed.

It faced much criticism across the web, with many fearing it could grant the powers to block sites in Ireland and threaten the technology sector.

The Stop SOPA Ireland petition has gathered more than 80,000 signatures since its launch in late January.