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Unauthorized livestreams of sports events: European Parliament calls for radical measures endangering fundamental digital rights

Yesterday, the European Parliament by a large majority called for stricter measures against unauthorised livestreams of sports events (e.g. football matches) (479+/171-/40 abstentions).

The Parliament is calling for legislation that would require providers to block streams flagged by rights holders without a court order, even if it is unclear whether they are legal or not. The text also advocates “blocking injunctions” targeted at Internet Service Providers (ISPs), including “dynamic” blocking injunctions that would allow the industry to add new blocking targets without judicial review. Amendments by shadow rapporteur Patrick Breyer (Pirate Party) for the Greens/EFA Group were rejected with one exception: a narrow majority recognises that when blocking illegal content, legal content on the same server shall not be blocked as well (352/324/19 votes).

“The draft resolution is a threat to our fundamental digital rights and could just as well have been written by industry lobbyists.”, comments MEP Patrick Breyer (Pirate Party).

“The commercialised sports lobby prevailed and obtained a vote for radical measures that would be ineffective but harmful to fans and users in general. Allowing private ‘flaggers’ with vested interests to have content removed without an assessment by an independent judicial authority would result in the over-blocking of legal content.  I hope these draconian measures such as take-downs without court orders will never be implemented. The Commission should know better than to counteract its own proposal for a Digital Services Act. I will now endeavor to make sure, in the negotiations on the DSA, that a balanced mechanism for addressing illegal content is chosen.

Breyer elaborates: “Requiring ISPs to block access is too easy to circumvent for users by simply changing DNS servers. Blocking access to an entire IP address also results in massive collateral damage to freedom of information. All in all, the profit-driven quest for ever more draconian measures ignores the obvious: the best way of reducing illegal streaming is to ensure that there is universal and affordable legal access to sport event broadcasts, both subscription-based and pay-per-view.”

The European Court of Human Rights ruled IP blocking illegal only last year, arguing that the wholesale blocking of access to an entire website was an extreme measure comparable to banning a newspaper or television station (CASE OF VLADIMIR KHARITONOV v. RUSSIA).

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