posted by Thom Holwerda on Thu 14th Apr 2011 21:41 UTC
IconA major win has been scored in Europe against the content industry and several governments who are trying to impose censorship on the internet through ISPs. The European Court of Justice, the highest court in Europe, gave a preliminary opinion which states that no ISP can be forced to filter the internet, especially not enforce copyright.

The advocate general's preliminary opinion is not the final ruling, but the Court generally does follow his advice. We're talking about filtering systems that could be imposed upon ISPs by courts, spurred on by the content industry, of course. The advocate general is clear.

"Advocate General Cruz Villalón considers that the installation of that filtering and blocking system is a restriction on the right to respect for the privacy of communications and the right to protection of personal data, both of which are rights protected under the Charter of Fundamental Rights," Villalón opines, "By the same token, the deployment of such a system would restrict freedom of information, which is also protected by the Charter of Fundamental Rights."

Since this is the highest court in Europe, which bases its rulings on what is, for all intents and purposes, the European constitution, it can't be overruled by a higher court. If the court adopts the opinion of the advocate general, it would strike a major blow to the content industry, which has been trying to limit the freedom of the web - attempts which are of course greeted with joy by governments the world over.

A government - not the individuals within it, but the whole - innately strives to strengthen and extend its power, and since the internet has proven to be a threat to that power by empowering the people, anything that curtails the freedom of the web is welcomed - silently, but sometimes openly - by governments.

Rick Falkvinge, founder of The Pirate Party, points out what the consequences of this possible ruling are. "This means that Eircom can no longer be forced to eavesdrop on its customers to filter out certain parts, and it means that Danish ISPs can no longer be mandated to censor The Pirate Bay and AllOfMP3. Black Internet in Sweden can give the finger to the court order to block The Pirate Bay. Many, many aggressions from the copyright industry stand to just fall flat on their face," he details, "You would think that respecting fundamental rights wouldn't need to go to the highest level, but now it has, and they have been respected."

The only thing that could classify as a loophole is that laws that require ISPs to censor the web can still potentially be enacted, but they must be tested against a set of very strict criteria. Falkvinge, however, claims this isn't really a loophole at all, since the criteria are incredibly strict.

This is very good news for internet users in Europe, and a major win for the freedom of information. It also makes it more difficult for governments to get their filthy, inefficient, and chocking grip on the internet.

"The way forward for the copyright industry appears permanently blocked," Falkvinge concludes, "I hold it as absolutely improbable that they'll get paragraphs in the referred European Charter of Human Rights that puts the copyright monopoly before the sanctity of correspondence, of personal data, and freedom of information."

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