German courts are bucking the trend, ruling that ISPs shouldn’t block illegal websites

German courts are bucking the trend, ruling that ISPs shouldn’t block illegal websites

If we learned anything this week, it was that European courts are coming down increasingly hard on websites that facilitate the sharing of illegal ‘pirated’ content. But for those that believe in an open, uncensored Internet, news that a German court has ruled against ordering Internet service providers (ISPs) to block such websites will be welcomed.

Earlier this week, we reported that Finnish ISP Elisa had been told to block access to Swedish website The Pirate Bay, as well as other sites known for illegal file-sharing, constituting part of an ongoing court case initiated by the Copyright Information and Anti-Piracy Centre (CIAPC) and Finland’s branch of music industry group IFPI.

This was swiftly followed by news that two Dutch ISPs had also been ordered to block access to The Pirate Bay, with both cases echoing similar action in the UK, with BT and Sky both recently ordered to block access to Newzbin 2, a site used to disseminate links to copyright-infringing content.

As Der Spiegel reports [in German], Germany is bucking this trend, with a court in Cologne ruling that German telecommunications company Deutsche Telekom should continue to allow access to Internet betting sites, even if they are illegal in Germany.

Deutsche Telekom has been fighting against the proposed ban, and the court’s decision was preceded by a similar ruling back in December, at the Administrative Court of Düsseldorf. The judge in that case had arrived at a similar verdict with regards to Vodafone. A spokeswoman for the Administrative Court of Düsseldorf said on Thursday that Vodafone and (Deutsche) Telekom aren’t responsible for the content of Web pages, noting that they are only service providers.

German regulation stipulates that most sports betting can only be done through state-controlled companies, which many have argued violates European legislation. The German Interstate Treaty which bans online gambling – except for horse racing – came into effect on January 1, 2008.

With the recent UK ISP ruling seemingly kick-starting an avalanche of similar court orders, as we’ve seen this week in the Netherlands and Finland, the announcement from German courts is certainly refreshing. However, as TechDirt notes, it also helps to highlight the contradictory messages being broadcast across the European Union.

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