NEW YORK — An electronic monopoly ruling could make it harder for online companies to track users who illegally download copyrighted movies and music.
The ruling by the Federal Communications Commission is the latest step in a long fight between the industry and consumer advocates who say the internet giants have failed to stop illegal downloads.
The court said that since the Internet was invented, copyright holders have used technology to track who was doing what.
The agency said in a statement that it had determined that “Internet service providers may be required to make Internet providers and Internet users aware of certain illegal activities in order to prevent the circumvention of lawful network traffic.”
It said it could have a “direct impact on whether consumers can access and access lawful content.”
The FCC said it had been working on this ruling for a year.
The FCC has not yet given a deadline for it to be released to the public.
The court’s ruling means that Internet service providers could be required by the courts to block any sites that offer illegal downloads or content that infringes copyright.
The Internet giants said they have the tools to do so.
But they have been working behind the scenes to ensure that their service providers don’t fall prey to legal threats.
The companies said the FCC’s ruling would give them the power to stop users from accessing copyrighted material.