Making available and managing an online platform for sharing copyright- protected works, such as 'The Pirate Bay', may constitute an infringement of copyright law, judges at the European Union's top court warned.
Luxembourg-based EU Court of Justice said Wednesday in a decision that may set a precedent in the music and film industries' fight to stem piracy.
"Even if the works in question are placed online by the users of the online sharing platform, the operators of that platform play an essential role in making those works available," the court said.
The Pirate Bay platform allows users to share and upload, in segments 'torrents'), works present on their computers. The files in question are, for the most part, copyright-protected works in respect of which the rightholders have not given the operators or users of that platform consent to share those works.
The Pirate Bay has withstood pressure to permanently shut its virtual doors, despite police raids and the imprisonment of its founders.
A Dutch anti-piracy group Stichting Brein has been fighting Pirate Bay since 2009, and targeted Internet service providers Ziggo, owned by Liberty Global, and XS4ALL to force them to bar access to the file-sharing site. That dispute ended up at the EU court in 2015, when a Dutch tribunal asked whether Pirate Bay violates EU copyright rules.
In the Dutch case, the court said "it is clear" that the Pirate Bay operators "could not be unaware that this platform provides access to works published without the consent of the rightholders."
The decision could arm copyright owners with more legal weapons against online sharing platforms, holding them accountable for the illegal activity taking place on their sites.