Google don’t need to filter ‘torrent’ searches in France

August 2016



The High Court in Paris has held that search engines Google and Bing are not required to automatically filter “torrent” related searches to prevent piracy. The court said that the proposed filter, requested by the local music industry group SNEP, would be too broad, ineffective, and target legitimate content as well.


SNEP had argued that, when paired with the names of three artists it represented, “torrent” related searches predominantly link to pirated content. To counter this, they demanded a filter that would block results for these searches for the keyword “torrent,” as well as websites that include the same word in their domain name, basing the request on Article L336-2 of France’s intellectual property code, which states that “all appropriate measures” are permitted to prevent copyright infringement.
Microsoft had warned that the broad filtering system requested by the music group would be imprecise, disproportionate and inefficient. The Court had to balance the rights of content owners to implement anti-piracy measures against the rights of individual Internet users including  freedom of expression and communication and the court found that “SNEP’s requests are general, and pertain not to a specific site but to all websites accessible through the stated methods, without consideration for identifying or even determining the site’s content, on the premise that the term ‘Torrent’ is necessarily associated with infringing content” and noted that the word “torrent” has many legitimate uses, as does the BitTorrent protocol, which is a neutral communication technology. The court said “Yet [torrent] is primarily a common noun, with a meaning in French and in English; it also refers to a neutral communication protocol developed by the company Bittorrent that enables access to lawfully downloaded files” meaning the request amounted to general monitoring that could block access to lawful websites.


Interestingly, French media highlights that TorrentFreak would have been automatically censored if Google and Microsoft would have lost their case – their URL includes the word torrent.
In the U.S, federal authorities have arrested the alleged owner of KickassTorrents, the world’s largest torrent site, which in recent years has eclipsed Pirate Bay and others to become the world’s biggest source of pirated media. 30-year-old Ukrainian Artem Vaulin (aka ‘Tirm’) was arrested in Poland and is charged with two counts of criminal copyright infringement, conspiracy to commit copyright infringement and conspiracy to commit money laundering. In addition, the federal court in Chicago has ordered the seizure of several KAT domain names. Federal investigators posed as a potential advertiser, which revealed a bank account associated with the site. The complaint also shows that Apple handed over personal details of Vaulin after the investigator cross-referenced an IP-address used for an iTunes transaction with an IP-address that was used to login to KAT’s Facebook account.

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