Research Handbooks in Intellectual Property series
Edited by Paul Torremans
Chapter 21: The role of Internet Service Providers in copyright infringements on the internet under EU law
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) constitute the only available means through which persons and companies gain access to the internet. From that point of view their role on the internet is a key role. The development of peer-to-peer software and the ease of uploading, posting, exchanging files and downloading protected subject matter on the Internet have given rise to extended online copyright infringements and have brought this role to the forefront. The main questions are whether ISPs are responsible/liable – and, if so, to what extent – for copyright infringements on the internet and what are the policy issues behind any such responsibility. The main focus of this chapter will be file sharing. ISPs are telecommunications companies which offer their customers access to the internet. ISPs can themselves host content, which is protected by copyright, act as intermediaries for the transmission of material coming from elsewhere or offer their services as a facilitator for peer-to-peer exchanges. From a legal point of view ISPs come within the notion of ‘intermediaries’ as this notion appears in the Enforcement Directive, the Information Society Directive and the E-Commerce Directive. Online market places, search engines, social media fora and other internet platforms are also included within this notion. The connection and communication of private computers on the internet are based on internet protocol (IP) addresses.
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