Belgian ISP Scarlet has scored its first victory in an important case that has been dragging on for years. This case is the first real test of how European copyright law can be applied to peer-to-peer networks. To give you a quick recap:

The Belgian Society of Authors, Composers and Publishers (Sabam, the Belgian version of the RIAA) started a case against Tiscali, one of the largest ISP’s in Belgium. In it, they argue that ISP’s are responsible when their customers transfer copyrighted files via their network. In 2004, Sabam (in their own words)  “obtained an intermediary judgement by virtue of which the court acknowledged that copyright infringements (regarding the reproduction right and right of communication to the public) were being committed by TISCALI customers. ”

The court then ordered a study into whether Tiscali (now called Scarlet) could be forced to block the transfer of copyrighted material through their network. This was finished last year, and in june 2007 Scarlet was ordered to implement technical measures to block the transfer of copyrighted works via P2P networks within six months. The fine for not following these instructions was set to €2500 per day. 

This year, Scarlet asked the court to cancel this order because the systems Sabam proposed for filtering traffic didn’t work as advertised; Sabam has already apologized to the judge about providing incorrect information. The court has now ruled in favor of Scarlet, staying the fine until the final ruling in this case which is expected about a year from now.