IFPI sues Belgian ISP over Usenet

By EDRi · February 11, 2004

The IFPI, the international representative of the recording industry, has
instigated legal proceedings against the Belgian ISP Telenet for the
unauthorised distribution of music via Usenet (newsgroups). Telenet
refuses to block the access to certain newsgroups in its newsservice
‘Bommanews’. The ISP argues that providing Usenet services is a ‘mere
conduit’ activity, and under the E-Commerce Directive (2002/58/EC) a
provider cannot be held liable for just passing bits. The ISP states:
“Telenet does not control the content of data that are being transported
over the network by its customers. Telenet acknowledges the right to
privacy and the freedom of speech of its customers.”

It is the first time that the recording industry attacks an internet
provider for offering usenet services, testing the strict non-liability
guarantees in the E-Commerce Directive. In a press release about the case,
the Belgian ISPA supports Telenet. “As ISPs we don’t initiate the
transmission, we don’t select the recipients, and we also don’t select or
modify the newsgroup content which is being transmitted.” But the ISPA
also suggests that it is possible to reach an agreement outside the court.
It proposes to set up a joint meeting with IFPI and the FCCU (and/or
representatives of the Ministry of Justice). “The outcome of this debate
could be a Protocol that describes how the IFPI, FCCU/ the Ministry of
Justice and ISPA will handle future manifestations of illegal content in

Press release Telenet (Dutch) and ISPA (English) (09.01.2004)