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Torrent is a word, and you can't ban words, rules French court

Google, Microsoft won't have to block searches for 'les torrents'

The High Court of Paris has decided there's a limit to France's unpopular anti-copying regime: Google and Bing can't be required to block the word “torrent” from their search results just because BitTorrent is sometimes used for piracy.

The case was brought by the Syndicat National de l'édition Phonographique, France's record industry association, on behalf of a trio of French artists – Kendji Girac, Shy’m, and Christophe Willem. SNEP wanted to use Article L336-2 of France's intellectual property law to force Google and Microsoft to delete searches that included both “torrent” and any of the artists' names.

That article is a catch-all for copyright owners, who can ask a judge to impose all appropriate measures to prevent an infringement. It seems, however, the High Court in Paris didn't think filtering “torrent” in all of France, the Wallis and Futuna islands, New Caledonia and the French Southern and Antarctic territories was appropriate.

In the Google case, the court found that SNEP was acting on behalf of only three artists, rather than for all of its members. The case would “not protect the interests of the entire profession, but ensure the protection of individual interests of members who produce these three artists”, the court found.

In the Microsoft action, the court stated the requests made by SNEP were too broad: “they do not concern an identified site, but all sites accessed by the requested terms, regardless of the identification and even determining the content of the site … The measures sought are similar to general surveillance measure and could cause the blocking of legitimate sites.”

Back in 2012, France's Supreme Court ruled that words like “torrent” had to be removed from Google Autocomplete and Instant, but refrained from having them blocked entirely.

The judgements award costs (yet to be calculated) against SNEP in both cases, along with €15,000 extra to Microsoft, and €10,000 for Google.

French speakers can find the Google judgement here (PDF) and the Microsoft judgement here (PDF). ®

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