Record companies fail in bid to force UPC to block illegal downloading

Several record company giants have failed in their High Court bid to force UPC to block illegal internet downloading.

Several record company giants have failed in their High Court bid to force UPC to block illegal internet downloading.

The court said that Ireland does not have the necessary laws in place to block, divert and interrupt internet piracy.

Eircom last year settled a deal with four record companies to cut off its broadband subscribers if they are caught sharing certain copyrighted music online.

In this case, EMI, Sony, Universal, Warner and WEA international went to court to force UPC to do likewise.

In his judgement, Mr Justice Peter Charleton said he was satisfied that their business was being devastated by illegal downloading.

Despite those views, he said that the Court could not grant injunctive relief, saying Ireland does not have the laws in place to block internet copyright theft.

"It is not surprising that the legislative response laid down in our country in the Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000, at a time when this problem was not perceived to be as threatening to the creative and retail economy as it has become in 2010, has made no proper provision for the blocking, diverting or interrupting of internet communications intent on breaching copyright," stated the judgement.

"In failing to provide legislative provisions for blocking, diverting and interrupting internet copyright theft, Ireland is not yet fully in compliance with its obligations under European law.

"Instead, the only relevant power that the courts are given is to require an internet hosting service to remove copyright material. Respecting, as it does, the doctrine of separation of powers and the rule of law, the Court cannot move to grant injunctive relief to the recording companies against internet piracy, even though that relief is merited on the facts.

"The Court thus declines injunctive relief."

In a statement issued following the verdict, UPC said it noted the Court's decision and "will continue to work with key stakeholders with a view to identifying and addressing the main areas of concern of all relevant parties in the filesharing debate".

The company reiterated that it does not condone piracy and takes all steps required by the law to combat specific infringements which are brought to its attention.

"Our whole premise and defense focused on the mere conduit principal which provides that an internet service provider (ISP) cannot be held liable for content transmitted across its network," UPC said.

"Today’s decision supports the principal that ISPs are not liable for the actions of internet subscribers."

Dick Doyle, director-general of the Irish Recorded Music Association (Irma), said they would pressure the Government to reform the law in favour of record labels.

“The High Court has acknowledged that Irish artists, composers and recording companies are sustaining huge losses and internet providers are profiting from the wholesale theft of music,” Mr Doyle said.

“The judge made it very clear that an injunction would be morally justified but that the Irish legislature had failed in its obligation to confer on the courts the right to grant such injunctions, unlike other EU states.

“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.”

Irma chairman Willie Kavanagh said: “We are extremely disappointed that the High Court 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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