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.