By Theresia Reinhold

In a decision from 26 November 2015 the German Supreme Court in Karlsruhe ruled in favour of the “blocking” of websites.

The Court came to this decision after dealing with two separate cases concerning websites that contained links to unauthorized music downloads. Firstly, the German music rights group Gema asked the Internet Service Provider (ISP) Deutsche Telekom to “block” the website 3dl.am, which contained such links. In the second case record companies Warner, Universal Music and Sony sued goldesel.to, a subsidiary of a Spanish broadband and telecoms provider Telefónica, for the same reason.

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According to the Court’s decision, ISPs can be requested by the parties who hold the rights of the content in question, to block relevant websites. However, before ISPs can follow this order, the rights-holders have a duty to eliminate every other way of contacting the website’s operator or host first. Another constraint can be found in the ruling, which states that the website’s overall offer has to show a clearly higher proportion of unauthorised content.

As the German website netzpolitik.org points out, it is not only relatively easy to overcome such “blocking” on a technical level, but the ideas has been already discussed extensively in Germany in 2009 under the banner “Zensursula”. German Minister Ursula von der Leyen wanted to “block” access to websites which contained contents of child-abuse and -pornography enforced by the ISPs.

The obligation to “block” websites affects the liability of intermediary service providers as it forces them to create the technological framework that permits this censorship to take place. Experience shows that, once this infrastructure has been created, courts see new blocking orders and blocking orders for new categories of content as comparatively more proportionate.

German Supreme Court on the liability of access providers for copyright infringement of third parties (only in German, 26.11.2015)
http://juris.bundesgerichtshof.de/cgi-bin/rechtsprechung/document.py? Gericht=bgh&Art=en&Datum=Aktuell&Sort=12288&nr=72928&linked=pm&Blank=1

German Supreme Court Ruling on website-blockings: The worthless digital privacy cardboard is back (only in German, 26.11.2015)
https://netzpolitik.org/2015/bgh-entscheidung-zu-netzsperren-die-nichtsnutzige-digitale- sichtschutzpappe-ist-zurueck/

Directive 2000/31/EC of the European Parliament (“Directive on electronic commerce”)
http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/HTML/?uri=CELEX:32000L0031&from=EN

Germany’s Supreme Court rules that ISPs can be ordered to block piracy websites (27.11.2015)
http://arstechnica.co.uk/tech-policy/2015/11/germanys-supreme-court-rules-that-isps-can-be-ordered-to-block-piracy-websites/

(Contribution by Theresia Reinhold, EDRi)

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