A platform for sharing files must block search terms to stop piracy.

Teddy Sagi
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The Czech Supreme Court has ruled that the file-sharing and hosting site Ulož.to must block searches and downloads for six movies. The CourtCourt turned down a request from copyright owners for more powerful anti-piracy filters. Still, it did confirm that online services can also have to accept technical restrictions for other content.

Ulož.to may not be a well-known name worldwide, but it is enormous in the Czech Republic.

The file-sharing and hosting service has millions of users. This site is also on the list of 40 websites with the most traffics in the country. Also, people frequently use the mobile app of this site.

Like many other file storage sites, Ulož.to can be used to share a wide range of files. Many people use it to share pirated music, movies, and TV shows.

Filter Battle in Court

Uloz removes illegal content when it gets takedown notices, just like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. However, the Czech anti-piracy group Dilia thinks the process is not extreme enough.

Dilia went to Court against Uloz on behalf of several rightsholders to ask for broad anti-piracy filters. In 2019, a court in Prague said that the file-sharing site must stop people from searching for specific terms related to movies.
Uloz disagreed with this choice. The company said that these kinds of filters threaten the freedom of the Internet. They believe that this will lead to too much censorship. Uloz fought against this all the way to the Supreme Court to stop it.

The Supreme Court says that anti-piracy filters are legal.

Firstly, the court decided to hear both sides of the argument. Then the Supreme Court decided last week to leave the lower Court’s decision alone. This means that Uloz will have to keep filtering searches for a list of “banned words”. They will also have to block downloads of movies that contain those words.

The highlighted movies are all local titles and include “Pelíšků” (Cosy Dens), “Kobry a užovky” (The Snake Brothers), “Ostře sledované vlaky” (Closely Watched Trains), “Vesničko má středisková” (My Sweet Little Village), “S čerty nejsou žerty” (Give the Devil His Due) and “Obušku, z pytle ven” (Stick, Start Beating!).

There are also some bright spots for Uloz. The Supreme Court disagreed with the people who own the rights when they said that the service should be responsible for what its users do wrong. Anti-piracy measures which are too extreme are not applicable.

“The mere fact that a provider of a file storage service is generally aware that works are unlawfully made available through its service […] is not sufficient to conclude that the service provider acts to participate in individual copyright offenses,” the Court found.

Still, Uloz has to take action if copyright holders point out specific cases of violation. In this case, it must use technical measures to stop people from finding and downloading the six films.

“After all, such technological measures currently exist and […] are capable of detecting repeatedly unauthorized storage and access to files containing works or objects of copyright-related rights,” the judges write.

“Censored”

When we try to find one of Uloz’s six movie titles, we get the following error message. “The search for this term was censored by a decision of the court.”

Uloz respects the Supreme Court’s decision, which shows that it is a legal business. But the platform for sharing files thinks that the filter requirements are too strict and will lead to censorship.

“We agree with a significant part of the Court’s ruling. The judgment once again confirmed that it works in full compliance with Czech and European law. Many of Dilia’s charges were dismissed during the trial,” Uloz says.

“However, one part of the verdict is, in our opinion and judged by our experts, still in conflict with freedom of speech and introduces disproportionate censorship.”

The Supreme Court’s decision does not mean that the case is over. The platform for sharing files says that it will go to the Constitutional Court to fight the part about censorship. Uloz says that the current verdict limits people’s freedom of speech, which goes against the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

Uloz also won an appeal last year against a preliminary court order that told it to block files with the word “The Supreme Court’s decision does not mean that the case is over. The platform for sharing files says that it will go to the Constitutional Court to fight the part about censorship. Uloz says that the current verdict limits people’s freedom of speech, which goes against the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

Uloz also won an appeal last year against a preliminary court order that told it to block files with the word “arlatán” (Charlatan). At the time, the Court decided that it was too much to filter searches for a common phrase.” (Charlatan). At the time, the Court agreed that filtering searches for a common word were too much.

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