Blog , 06 Jul 2023

Copyright Infringement vs. ISPs and Hosting Providers

Tobias Knecht,

Founder and CEO, Abusix

Protecting copyrighted and trademarked intellectual property has always been challenging for rightful owners. Pre-internet copyright infringement was costly, involving copying text from books or producing counterfeit cassettes and videotapes. Piracy was restricted to copying cassette or VCR music/videos for personal use or a few acquaintances. Although these actions deprived rightful owners of royalties or sales, little was done about the practice since it was limited.

Peer-to-Peer File Sharing

Today the internet has made copying and stealing intellectual property easier, resulting in significant financial losses for copyright owners. Illegal sharing led to hidden sharing. E-books and content are still shared online. As a result, peer-to-peer file-sharing applications went underground. Digital media has made it easy for people to steal and sell copyrighted content like e-books, movies, TV shows, and music.

Copyright Laws

Unfortunately, theft of copyrighted material is rampant, and thus, a major challenge is creating a unified global legal front against copyright infringement. There is no “international copyright” that automatically protects against global infringement. Instead, the laws of each country apply to protecting material against unauthorized use within that country. Of the 195 sovereign states worldwide, 188 are World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) members. EU 2016/593 – Digital Copyright Legislation is the EU’s implementation of the WIPO treaties, and it requires action on behalf of ISPs and Hosting Providers for inbound copyright infringement complaints.

But that said, countries with laws protecting copyrighted and trademarked properties often take different approaches. Most include a safe harbor provision, but Network Provider (ISP or Hosting Provider) protections can vary significantly between countries.


There can be many outcomes if a rightful owner names a Network Provider as a co-defendant in a lawsuit. For instance, BMG won a $25 million settlement from Cox after they failed to forward infringement notices to their infringing customers. This case has escalated to an award of $1billon US.

In France, three instances of illegally downloading copyrighted material or failing to secure a system to prevent such downloads could result in blocklisting. The prohibition would prevent Network Providers from providing subscribers with internet access.

Regardless of location, governments have shifted the copyright risk to Network Providers.

Safe Harbor

The 2010 case of Tiscali Media v Dargaud et al. illustrates the risks faced by Network Providers. Like Cox in the US, the ISP claimed protection under safe harbor provisions, but the French court denied immunity. The decision was based on the ISP displaying paid advertisements on customers’ infringing websites, which made the ISP both a publisher and a service provider.

Network Providers must navigate complex laws to maintain safe harbor status and meet evolving requirements. They need systems to stay compliant and combat IP theft, avoiding costly consequences.

Challenging a copyright infringement case

ISPs and Hosting Providers have found that trying to win a lawsuit for copyright infringement can be a hollow victory. The legal costs can easily outweigh the benefit of winning. The case’s impact on Network Providers includes unhappy shareholders, delayed expansions, and limited funds for investment, outweighing the cost of efficient copyright systems. They also face increased legal vulnerability with multiple lawsuits.

Let us help

Abusix’s AbuseHQ simplifies copyright management for Network Providers, ensuring compliance with laws and safe harbor provisions while offering a strong legal defense. today to learn how we can help you.

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