Copyright levy for ISPs violates EU regulation, Belgian government says

There are other ways to prevent illegal downloads, the government said

A plan by the Belgian association of authors, composers and publishers to make ISPs pay copyright levies for offering access to copyright-protected material online violates the European e-commerce directive, a Belgian government spokeswoman said Wednesday.

The association, called Sabam, sued Belgian Internet access providers Belgacom, Telenet and Voo in May, demanding they start paying 3.4 percent of their turnover in copyright fees. The ISPs profit from giving users easy access to copyright materials by offering high speed Internet access, according to Sabam.

However, the Belgian government's FPS Economy (Federal Public Service Economy) agency, which has regulatory power, believes that Sabam is wrongly asking providers for compensation, said Chantal De Pauw, an agency spokeswoman.

While the FPS opposes any kind of illegal downloading, Sabam's solution penalizes Internet users and this is against the E.U.'s e-commerce directive, according to the authority. Providing Internet access is not the same as publishing protected works, the FPS said in a news release, adding that there are other ways to fight illegal downloads than posing levies on ISPs.

The FPS for example cooperates with the Belgian Anti-Privacy organization to achieve this, it said.

The FPS has ordered Sabam to stop its lawsuit, but the association has argued that they are operating within the bounds of the law, said De Pauw. FPS has therefore decided to sue Sabam in October to force it to stop its legal procedures against the ISPs, De Pauw said. If FPS wins the suit, Sabam faces penalties of up to €100,000 (US$137,600) per day if it continues its quest, she added. This procedure is still ongoing.

According to Sabam, however, it is for the courts to decide whether ISPs are contributing to the infringement of copyright- protected material by offering Internet connections, and it is up to the courts to decide whether the ISPs have to pay copyright levies, said Christophe Depreter, Sabam's director, in an emailed statement.

Because the Belgian government has a majority stake in Belgacom, the FPS has a clear conflict of interest in this case, he wrote.

"The FPS Economy clearly opts for the interests of consumers in the short term in contrast to the short and long term interests of our country's creative artists and their foreign colleagues," Depreter wrote.

FPS however said its interests are "clearly different" from the interests of the ISPs.

A date for oral arguments in the case between Sabam and the ISPs is planed for 2014, Depreter said.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags intellectual propertycopyrightlegalSABAM

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Loek Essers

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?