Pirate Bay liable for copyright, says ECJ
The Pirate Bay can be held liable for copyright infringement, which could signal "the end" of the platform, according to a European Court of Justice ruling.
The ruling is part of a long-running dispute between the platform and Dutch anti-piracy group Stichting Brein.
Stichting Brein wants two Dutch ISPs to block access to the site.
The judgement could have a knock-on effect on other methods of accessing pirated films and TV shows.
The case was first brought by Stichting Brein in 2010 in an attempt to make internet service providers Ziggo and XS4ALL - which, the anti-piracy group says, allow a significant number of their subscribers to use The Pirate Bay - block access to it.
The Pirate Bay allows users to share and upload films, TV shows and other content in segments known as torrents.
It is already blocked by a number of European ISPs, including the main players in the UK market.
During the past few years, the Supreme Court of the Netherlands - to which the original case was referred - has asked the European Court of Justice for clarifications on a series of points in the EU Copyright Directive.
This clarification was on whether a sharing platform such as The Pirate Bay was making communication with the public and therefore liable to the copyright law.
And the answer, after two years deliberation, appears to be that it does.
"The making available and management of an online sharing platform must be considered to be an act of communication for the purposes of the directive," the ruling stated.
Jeremy Harris, a partner at law firm Kemp Little, said: "The effect on The Pirate Bay will not be that great because it is already well blocked, but it is very significant for other sites who might do something similar and which are now potentially infringing."
Ernesto van der Sar, editor of piracy news website TorrentFreak, told the BBC: "The ruling strengthens the position of right holders who would like to see The Pirate Bay and similar websites blocked across Europe.
"Whether if will be effective at stopping the general public from accessing The Pirate Bay remains to be seen.
"There are plenty of workarounds available that allow people to bypass ISP blockades, including reverse proxy sites and VPN [virtual private network] services."
Much of the attention of anti-piracy groups has moved in recent months to so-called fully loaded Kodi boxes - which have been modified to stream subscription football matches, television channels and films.
Kodi is free software, built by volunteers, designed to bring videos, music, games and photos together in one app.
The software can be modified with third-party add-ons that provide access to pirated copies of films and TV services, or free access to subscription television channels.
Five people accused of selling such set-top boxes were arrested in the UK in February, and in March the Premier League got a court order to tackle the issue.