Tagged: ruling

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Pirate Bay may finally be sunk after EU copyright ruling

Aurich Lawson / Thinkstock

Infamous BitTorrent tracker site The Pirate Bay can be found liable of copyright violations even if it doesn’t host any infringing content, Europe’s top court has ruled.

“Making available and managing an online platform for sharing copyright-protected works, such as ‘The Pirate Bay,’ may constitute an infringement of copyright,” the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) said in its judgment[2] on Wednesday. “Even if the works in question are placed online by the users of the online sharing platform, the operators of that platform play an essential role in making those works available.”

The ruling isn’t only good news for copyright lawyers, but it also paves the way for ISPs across Europe to choke access to The Pirate Bay, which started life in Sweden in 2003 and has undergone a number of high-profile legal battles—including prison time for its founders, after they were found guilty of being accessories to breaching copyright laws in 2009.

Anti-piracy group Stichting Brein first brought proceedings to courts in the Netherlands eight years ago, when it sought an order to force two of the country’s ISPs—Liberty Global’s Ziggo and XS4ALL—to block the domain names and IP addresses of TPB.

“Everyone is served in blocking illegal sites,” Stichting Brein’s director Tim Kuik said[3] following the ruling. “Illegal sites compete with legal offerings and put all earnings into their own pocket. Manufacturers, producers, and publishers do not see anything about it. It will not be updated and no new content will be created.”

Luxembourg’s judgment, which interpreted the EU Copyright Directive[4], said:

Whilst it accepts that the works in question are placed online by the users, the court highlights the fact that the operators of the platform play an essential role in making those works available. In that context, the court notes that the operators of the platform index the torrent files so that the works to which those files refer can be easily located and downloaded by users.

‘The Pirate Bay’ also offers—in addition to a search engine—categories based on the type of the works, their genre, or their popularity. Furthermore, the operators delete obsolete or faulty torrent files and actively filter some content.

The court also highlights that the protected works in question are in fact communicated to a public.

Five years ago, the UK’s big name ISPs were ordered by the High Court to cut off access to The Pirate Bay site. And since then, many other piracy sites have similarly been subjected to legal blockades.

The CJEU’s ruling appears to be suggesting that TPB operators offer functions that go beyond a search engine such as Google. Observers have already been wondering if the judgment will spill over into areas where sites might fall under the court’s definition, which states: “the making available and management of an online sharing platform must be considered to be an act of communication for the purposes of the directive.” But they needn’t be overly concerned.

Internet lawyer Graham Smith, in a joint blog post[5] with Will Smith at Bird & Bird, said:

This decision will be welcomed by rights holders as it appears to further broaden the scope of the communication to the public right in the online environment and to be consistent with the broader policy aims of the European Commission in seeking to crack down on online infringement and to protect creative industries.

In Europe, the likes of Facebook and YouTube can fall back on[6] Article 15 of the E-Commerce Directive[7], which states that providers acting as a “mere conduit,” “caching,” or “hosting” service aren’t obliged “to monitor the information they transmit or store.” The law also makes it clear that there is no “general obligation actively to seek facts or circumstances indicating illegal activity.”

As Smith & Smith of Bird & Bird put it: “That protection operates as an independent overlay above underlying substantive rights such as copyright, so will continue to apply regardless.”

This post originated on Ars Technica UK[8]

References

  1. ^ 16 posters participating (arstechnica.com)
  2. ^ judgment (curia.europa.eu)
  3. ^ said (stichtingbrein.nl)
  4. ^ EU Copyright Directive (eur-lex.europa.eu)
  5. ^ blog post (www.twobirds.com)
  6. ^ can fall back on (arstechnica.co.uk)
  7. ^ E-Commerce Directive (eur-lex.europa.eu)
  8. ^ Ars Technica UK (arstechnica.co.uk)
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Amazon has been ordered to start refunding parents for their kids’ in-app buys

Amazon has been told to start organizing how it’s going to pay back millions of dollars to parents whose kids made in-app purchases on their mobile devices without permission.

A court in Amazon’s home city of Seattle on Thursday ordered the ecommerce giant to set up a notice-and-claims process early next year to notify eligible parents of the refunds, and to pay them what’s owed, Reuters[1] reported.

This issue goes back to 2011 when Amazon began allowing in-app purchases of which the company takes a 30 percent cut. At the time, there were no safeguards in place – for example, password protection for accounts – to stop children from making unauthorized in-app purchases, a situation that led to some parents getting a nasty surprise upon receipt of their credit card bill.

The matter eventually came to the attention of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), leading it to file a lawsuit against the online retailer in 2014[2]. The commission had estimated that of around $86 million generated by in-app purchases in the Amazon app store, a whopping 42 percent[3] had been made without parental consent, though Amazon described the FTC’s figures as “fundamentally flawed.”

“Unlimited charges”

“Amazon’s in-app system allowed children to incur unlimited charges on their parents’ accounts without permission,” the FTC said at the time, adding that “even Amazon’s own employees recognized the serious problem its process created.” But the company insisted it was making refunds where possible and was adding safeguards to its app store software.

In April of this year, the court sided with the FTC[4], saying Amazon’s procedures for informing its customers about in-app charges were “not sufficient.”

However, on Thursday, Seattle U.S. District Judge John Coughenour rejected the FTC’s call for Amazon to pay a $26.5 million penalty, insisting that the company must instead notify eligible parents and ask them to make individual claims.

Related: 10 handy Amazon Fire tablet tips and tricks[5]

It’s not the first time unauthorized in-app purchases – or the lack of a way to prevent them – have upset the FTC. Following action by the commission, Apple agreed to refund more than $32 million[6] to customers in 2014, while in the same year Google set about[7] paying back $19 million.

All three companies have since put in place stricter procedures to make it harder for children to make unauthorized in-app purchases.

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References

  1. ^ Reuters (www.reuters.com)
  2. ^ in 2014 (www.digitaltrends.com)
  3. ^ 42 percent (www.reuters.com)
  4. ^ sided with the FTC (www.digitaltrends.com)
  5. ^ 10 handy Amazon Fire tablet tips and tricks (www.digitaltrends.com)
  6. ^ more than $32 million (www.digitaltrends.com)
  7. ^ Google set about (www.digitaltrends.com)
       
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