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.