The court found it was not possible for internet service providers to stop people illegally downloading music despite claims from the record industry that it is losing €20 million a year.
In their action, five record companies – EMI Records (Ireland), Sony Music Entertainment (Ireland), Universal Music Ireland, Warner Music Ireland and WEA International – said it wanted internet service provider UPC to operate a system which would cut internet access from users illegally downloading music.
Mr Justice Peter Charleton said, if he could have granted the injunction to crack down on access to sites such as the Pirate Bay, he would have done so. But he said Irish laws did not allow him to as they were not in full compliance with EU directives.
UPC, the country’s third- largest internet service provider, had said it was a “mere conduit” and could not be held liable for the actions of those using its services.
In his judgment, Mr Justice Charleton said: “I do not accept any of the evidence from UPC as to its unawareness of this process.”
But he said: “I cannot grant the injunction because I have no legal power to do so.”
Following yesterday’s ruling, a spokesman for the Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA) said it had not ruled out a Supreme Court appeal, and the companies reserved the right to seek compensation from the state for past and continuing losses.
Director general of IRMA Dick Doyle said: “We will now look to the Irish Government to fully vindicate the constitutional rights of copyright holders and we reserve the right to seek compensation for the past and continuing losses from the state.”
One of the groups mentioned by the judge in his ruling, rock band Aslan, said they lost out on 30,000 album sales to online piracy. Billy McGuinness of the band said: “It’s a sad day.”
Eircom, the country’s largest internet service provider, agreed an out-of-court deal last year to tackle music piracy. It is understood 5,000 notifications have been sent out to Eircom customers every month since a pilot phase began last July.
A spokesman for Communications Minister Eamon Ryan said he would be seeking to resolve the issue alongside Enterprise Minister Batt O’Keeffe: “The minister will be inviting representatives from the music industry and internet service providers into his department to formulate an agreed approach.”