Online piracy ‘will cost music industry millions’

MUSIC piracy will continue to cost the music industry here millions, a High Court judge said yesterday, after five recording companies failed to secure an injunction against internet service provider UPC aimed at clamping down on illegal downloading.

In a lengthy written judgment, Mr Justice Peter Charleton said €20 million could be lost annually by the music industry as a result of illegal file sharing and downloading, and warned of an “even bleaker future for the music industry”.

The five companies – EMI Records (Ireland), Sony Music Entertainment (Ireland), Universal Music Ireland, Warner Music Ireland and WEA International – had sought the injunction against UPC, the third largest internet provider.

Backed by the Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA), the companies claimed the music industry was being decimated and the retail sector seriously affected by rampant internet piracy.

Mr Justice Charleton agreed, but said he could not grant the injunction as he did not have the power to do so under the Constitution.

UPC argued that it was a “mere conduit” when it came to music piracy.

Mr Justice Charleton said that, had he the power to do so, he would grant an injunction which would block access to sites such as Pirate Bay.

“I cannot grant the injunction because I have no legal power to do so,” he said.

Following the ruling IRMA said Ireland had failed to protect the constitutional rights of copyright holders through non-implementation of EU copyright directives. It called for action from the Government and said it reserved the right to seek compensation for past and continuing losses from the state.

UPC said the ruling “supports the principal that ISPs are not liable for the actions of internet subscribers”, and stressed it was keen to work with other parties to stamp out piracy.

UPC said it took all steps required by the law to combat specific infringements brought to its attention and “will continue to co-operate with rights holders where they have obtained the necessary court orders for alleged copyright infringements”.

Mr Justice Charleton said some 675,000 people are likely to be engaged in some form of illegal downloading from time to time. “I am satisfied that the business of the recording companies is being devastated by internet piracy,” he said.

He outlined measures in other states which seek to tackle online piracy, including an blocking injunction, but said: “There is nothing like these provisions in Ireland... The power to block access to internet sites, to disable access, to interrupt a transmission, to divert a transmission, and to cut off internet access in controlled circumstances are amply and clearly provided for in the law of the neighbouring kingdom and are specifically outlined in the law of other European states and are also highly developed in United States of America law. They are not now available in Irish law.”

IRMA chairman Willie Kavanagh, said: “We are extremely disappointed that the High Court today has effectively determined that the Irish State has failed to protect the constitutional rights of copyright holders, by failing to implement EU Copyright directives correctly.”


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