Court Orders ISP to Disconnect Internet Pirates

The High Court in Ireland has told ISP UPC that it must introduce a "three strikes" scheme to deal with subscribers who pirate music online. The ruling is a major victory for Sony, Universal and Warner who will only be required to pay 20% of the installation and running costs, with UPC picking up 80% of the tab.

Half a decade ago the Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA) ended legal action against local ISP Eircom when the ISP agreed to force a so-called “three strikes” regime on subscribers.

The agreement saw IRMA-affiliated labels including Sony, Universal and Warner tracking Eircom subscribers online and Eircom forwarding infringement notices to alleged pirates. It was envisioned that those caught three times would be disconnected from the Internet.

In a follow-up move IRMA tried to force another ISP, UPC, to implement the same measures. UPC fought back and over the past several years the matter has dragged on through the Irish legal system.

In January 2015 the case was again before the Commercial Court, with IRMA looking to force a so-called “graduated response” scheme onto UPC and the ISP trying to avoid one and its costs.

The High Court handed down its ruling Friday and it amounts to a massive victory for the labels, a depressing defeat for UPC, and a major concern for the rest of Ireland’s ISPs.

Brushing aside arguments by UPC that it’s not an ISP’s job to police its subscribers’ activities online, Justice Brian Cregan sided almost entirely with the labels.

“The current generation of writers, performers and interpreters of music cannot have their livelihoods destroyed by advances in technology which allow persons to breach their constitutional rights with impunity,” he said.

After ordering UPC to implement a “three strikes” system including the disconnection of repeat offenders, the Judge then informed the ISP it would be picking up most of the bill.

According to Independent.ie the system will cost between 800,000 euros and 940,000 euros to set up. UPC offered to pay 25% of these costs but the Judge disagreed and ordered the ISP to pay 80%.

But it doesn’t end there. Yearly running costs are estimated to be between 200,000 and 300,000 euros or, to put it another way, close to one euro for each of UPC’s 360,000 subscribers.

Then, in a move apparently aimed at keeping costs down, the Judge ordered that the number of warning notifications going out to subscribers should be capped at 2,500 per month instead of the 5,000 originally proposed. That means that even if the staggering setup costs are ignored, each notice could cost 10 euros to send out.

The case was adjourned until next month to allow UPC and the labels to prepare submissions on how Justice Cregan’s order will be implemented. In the meantime the rest of Ireland’s ISPs will be nervously checking their bank balances in the event that they too are required to implement a similarly costly system.

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