Germany's top criminal and civil court has ruled that Internet providers can be ordered to block certain websites. But it stressed that copyright holders must first try other means to stop illegal content distibution.
Thursday's verdict by the Federal Court of Justice in Karlsruhe means that illegal downloads of copyright material like films and music will be trickier in future. Ultimately, Internet providers must block websites offering illegal downloads - but only after those affected by the breach of copyright have demonstrated that they have tried to identify the hosts and providers of the foreign websites to stop them from distributing their content.
Germany's digital industry association Bitkom welcomed the verdict, as it means the providers are not generally required to block websites at the request of copyright holders. The association believes blocking websites should remain a "last-resort measure" so as not to limit users' freedom on the Internet too much.
Germany's musicians' lobby and copyright group GEMA as well as several record labels had demanded that German provider Deutsche Telekom block certain websites that offered copyrighted content for free.
The court in Karlsruhe stressed that providers have to block websites even if they also offer legal content. The fact that new websites are likely to be set up in the event of one being blocked should not deter providers, the court said, as blocking them at least made it harder to distribute illegal content.
ng/msh (dpa, AFP)