Belgian court rules ISPs don't have to pay copyright levies

The court found that ISPs are not liable for the content transmitted over their networks

A Brussels court has ruled that Belgian ISPs don't have to pay copyright levies for offering access to copyright protected materials online.

The Belgian association of authors, composers and publishers, Sabam, sued the country's three biggest ISPs -- Belgacom, Telenet and Voo -- in early 2013, demanding they pay 3.4 percent of their revenue in copyright fees.

Sabam argued the ISPs profit from offering high speed Internet connections that give users easy access to copyright protected materials, so they should compensate authors, composers and publishers for movies and music downloaded illegally. Sabam started demanding compensation from ISPs in 2011.

The Brussels court of the first instance disagreed, Sabam said in a news release on Tuesday. In its decision from last Friday, the court found that Internet access providers are not liable for information transmitted over their networks, Sabam said.

The court did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The decision is in line with the European Union's e-commerce directive, which states that EU countries have to ensure that service providers are not liable for the information they transmit, as long as the provider does not initiate or modify the information in the transmission.

This EU regulation was why the Belgian government sued Sabam in late 2013 ((in an effort)) to stop the lawsuit against the ISPs.

Friday's judgement was welcomed by Belgacom. "It is as we expected," said a spokeswoman, reiterating that Belgacom just offers Internet access and is not responsible for the content.

Telenet and Voo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, Sabam said it sees opportunities to appeal the case. The decision by the Brussels court directly opposes four decisions of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), a Sabam spokesman said in an email.

In those four cases, the CJEU ruled that the economic advantage someone gets from relaying works is often the decisive factor to determine whether someone is responsible for the communication, he said.

However, the Brussels court found the question of whether ISPs benefit from giving access to material irrelevant, Sabam said in its news release, adding that the court also chose to ignore the business model ISPs have built around the distribution of works on the Internet, which is very profitable for them.

Sabam hasn't yet decided if it will appeal.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, online payment issues as well as EU technology policy and regulation for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags copyrightlegalintellectual propertyBelgacomSABAMVooTelenet

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

Essentials

Brother MFC-L3745CDW Colour Laser Multifunction

Learn more >

Mobile

Exec

Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?