The Role of Human Rights in Copyright Enforcement Online

Christophe Geiger (Centre for International and Intellectual Property Studies) & Elena Izyumenko (Centre for International and Intellectual Property Studies), “The Role of Human Rights in Copyright Enforcement Online: Elaborating a Legal Framework for Website Blocking”

In  recent  years,  intellectual  property  enforcement  by  ordering Internet  access  providers  to  block infringing  websites has  been  rapidly  evolving  in  Europe. Understandable  from  the  perspective  of rightholders searching  for the  most  efficient  ways  to  stop  infringing  activities, this  increasing tendency to seek for website blocking raises several interrelated legal questions.Those range from the  extent  to  which  new  enforcement  models  should  burden the  freedom  to  conduct  a  business  of these intermediaries to how this practice affects the ability of Internet users to access information of their  choice and exercise  their  freedom  of  expression in  the  online  environment.  Interestingly,  the requests    for    blocking    injunctions    have    also    provoked    counter-reactions,    initiating    a “breakthrough” in the European judiciary because of the recognition of user rights as enforceable rights  of  equal  value  to  those  of  rightholders.  This  article  approaches  these  (and  other)  questions from  the  perspective  of  three  fundamental  rights  that play  a  major  role in  website  blocking  cases and  which,  according  to  judicial  practice,  need to be  balanced against  each  other: the users’ freedom of expression, the ISPs’ freedom to conduct a business, and the copyright holders’ right to property.To this end, it analyses the recent key decisions on the matter from two major European courts –theCourt  of  Justice  of  the  European  Union  and  the  European  Court  of  Human  Rights–reflecting  further  on  their actual  and  potential impact on national decisions. Using  the context  of this European case  law to elaborate standards  applicable  in the  field  of  website  blocking,  this article ultimately   questions   appropriateness   of   currently   prioritised   enforcement   strategies, pointing to the need to explore possible alternative solutions.In recent years, intellectual property enforcement by ordering Internet access providers to block infringing websites has been rapidly evolving in Europe. Understandable from the perspective of rightholders searching for the most efficient ways to stop infringing activities, this increasing tendency to seek for website blocking raises several interrelated legal questions. Those range from the extent to which new enforcement models should burden the freedom to conduct a business of these intermediaries to how this practice affects the ability of Internet users to access information of their choice and exercise their freedom of expression in the online environment.