Four major music firms have secured court orders requiring six internet service providers to block access by subscribers to various Pirate Bay websites within some 30 days.
The move is a bid to prevent illegal downloading of copyright music and other material.
About 200,000 Irish users, representing some 8% of all internet users here, access the Pirate Bay sites monthly.
Illegal file-sharing is devastating sales of music, film and TV here with serious consequences for artists, record companies, retailers and employment, it was claimed.
EMI, Sony, Warner Music and Universal had alleged the Pirate Bay activities were causing them some €20m losses annually and sought the orders against UPC, Imagine, Vodafone, Digiweb, Hutchison 3G Ltd and Telefonica O2 Ireland Ltd.
Eircom has already voluntarily blocked access by its subscribers to Pirate Bay and the companies claimed a new statutory instrument means other ISPs must do the same.
The defendants effectively adopted a neutral stance to the companies’ application but some raised issues including alleging overblocking could affect legitimate sites.
Mr Justice Brian McGovern said he was satisfied to make the order in circumstances including that new copyright laws here and in the EU permitted such orders to be made. He said he fully agreed with a previous High Court judge who had said he would make such blocking orders if the law permitted and noted the law now allowed for such orders.
The form of the orders means the music companies will not have to make fresh applications to court if Pirate Bay changes its location on the internet.
The judge noted the companies had accepted they should meet the costs of blocking the Pirate Bay sites. The only contentious issue in the case was about who was liable for the legal costs, he said.
While none of the defendant companies were wrongdoers in the case and had effectively adopted a neutral stance apart from engaging in some legitimate dialogue with the companies, the providers were the conduit through which the wrongful activity conducted by The Pirate Bay has been effected, he said.
“There is no doubt but that this activity has caused, and continues to cause, substantial financial damage to the plaintiffs.”
He considered a fair and proportionate order would mean all of the defendants, except Vodafone, should bear all of their own costs.
As Vodafone had had a substantial input into the terms of a protocol attached to an agreed draft order put before the court, which protocol had “watered down” the terms of that proposed by the companies, he considered the companies should pay Vodafone’s costs up to February 4 last after which Vodafone should pay its own costs.
The companies claimed the Pirate Bay sites hold a vast directory of copyright material being made available to millions around the world. About 25% of that material was music, 20% was film and 15% was TV. It was conservatively estimated about 78% of the music and 90% of the film and TV was copyright and his side’s experts also calculated up to $36m advertising revenue is generated annually for the Pirate Bay sites, they claimed.
EMI Chairman Willie Kavanagh, also chairman of the Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA), said the companies application was supported by other bodies representing copyright holders, including the Irish Copyright Licensing Agency (book, magazine and journal publishers); the Motion Picture Association (the film industry); Games Ireland (the software games industry); and the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society (music composers and publishers).
Evidence gathered for the record companies indicated files relating to albums of which they hold copyright, including Bruce Springsteen’s Wrecking Ball (Sony Music); Green Day’s DOSI (Warner Music); The Killers Battle Born (Universal Music) and Mick Flannery’s Red to Blue (EMI Music) were all available for download on the Pirate Bay website, the court heard.
A legal action aimed at blocking access by Irish internet users to the free file-sharing website Pirate Bay and related websites has come before the Commercial Court. About 200,000 Irish users access the Pirate Bay site monthly, the court heard.
Four music companies have brought the case against five internet service providers (ISPs) aimed at requiring them block or disable access by their subscribers to the sites.
The aciton is by EMI, Sony, Warner Music and Universal against UPC, Imagine, Vodafone, Digiweb and Hutchison 3G Ltd and all the defendants consented today to the case being fast-tracked in the Commercial Court.
In an affidavit, EMI chairman Willie Kavanagh, who is also chairman of the Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA), said the Pirate Bay website operates as “a vast directory of what is overwhelmingly copyright material” that internet users are making available for downloading, copying and onward distribution by other internet users.
That directory indicates what is available and who is making it available, he said. An expert for the plaintiffs had estimated the minimum advertising revenue of the Pirate Bay website at between US$20.5m to US$36m dollars.
Mr Justice Peter Kelly said it appeared the defendant companies were “innocent parties” seeking to achieve a constructive end to the litigation and he indicated the best approach may be to have experts for the sides get together to work out a way forward.
The case will involve the first court examination of issues arising from new copyright legislation introduced last February, he noted.
Jonathan Newman, for the music companies, said experts for the sides had met before but he had no difficulty with another meeting.
Counsel said that while another High Court judge, Mr Justice Peter Charleton, had previously ruled he could not make such a blocking order relating to Pirate Bay against Eircom, that company had voluntarily blocked access by subscribers to the site and the music companies also believed the legal situation had changed via a new statutory instrument of last February.
Cian Ferriter SC, for Vodafone, said his client does not condone copyright piracy and was not opposed in principle to what the plaintiffs were seeking but a lot of issues had to be “ironed out”.
Vodafone was concerned there should be an equitable application across the market of any final order made in this matter, counsel said. Vodafone was anxious not to be “singled out” and have its commercial interests affected if others were not and it was happy to have experts engage in seeing if some form of protocol could be agreed, he added.
Gerard Kelly of Matheson, solicitors, for UPC and Hutchison, said his clients favoured a meeting of the sides in an effort to narrow down the issues.
Mr Justice Kelly said he would transfer the case to the Commercial Court but would defer making further directions so as to allow the experts an opportunity to meet. If no agreement was reached, the areas of disagreement should be identified and the case would return to court late next month, he added.