FANS are free to continue illegally downloading music after five record companies failed in their bid to force a broadband provider to cut off customers illegally downloading singles and albums for free.
Yesterday the High Court ruled that Irish laws do not permit the courts to block illegal downloading and file sharing of copyrighted material.
The ruling threw into chaos official moves to stop piracy of music, a practice vigorously opposed by bands worldwide as well as Irish artists such as U2, Aslan and the Corrs.
The ruling means UPC is not obliged to block or disconnect customers who are discovered to be pirating material and they are effectively now free to continue doing so.
And Eircom, which has a voluntary monitoring agreement with some music firms, said last night it was now evaluating its position on the matter.
The Irish Independent has learned that the Office of the Attorney General is to study the ruling to see if any remedial action is required after High Court judge Peter Charleton ruled that Ireland is in breach of its obligations under EU law.
And music companies are planning to sue the Government for "losses" incurred by people illegally downloading music for free on the internet.
Judge Charleton was highly critical of how little protection there was for music providers to protect the fruits of their labour.
Unlike many European countries, including the United Kingdom and France, Ireland has not made any provision for blocking internet sites intent on breaching copyright.
The only power the courts here have is to require an internet service provider to remove copyright material.
Yesterday Judge Charleton rejected the application from EMI, Sony Music, Universal Music, Warner and WEA who had also sought an order that UPC block or otherwise disable access by its internet subscribers to sites which provide the downloads, like Piratebay.
The judge said the legislative response to the problem of internet piracy, the Copyright and Related Rights Acts 2000, made no proper provision for the blocking, diverting or interrupting of copyright breaching internet communications.
The judge was highly critical of UPC's attitude to an illegal downloading injunction, saying that while an injunction was merited on the facts of the case, the lack of any provision in the 2000 Act prevented granting the orders sought.
Judge Charleton pointed out the losses to such bands as Aslan and Coldplay. Aslan had previously sold around 35,000 copies per album while their most recent release 'Uncased' sold only 6,000 copies -- although 22,000 illegal downloads of the work were traced.
In strong criticism of UPC, he said he did not believe the company had "thought about" this issue and considered whether it was making a profit from it. He also said Ireland was not yet fully in compliance with its obligations under EU law in relation to illegal downloading.
Last night, Willie Kavanagh, chairman of the Irish Recorded Music Association, said that he was disappointed the High Court had "effectively determined that the Irish State has failed to protect the constitutional rights of copyright holders by failing to implement EU copyright directives correctly".
Dick Doyle, director general of IRMA, said the High Court had acknowledged that Irish artists, composers and recording companies were sustaining huge losses.
He claimed that internet providers were "profiting from the wholesale theft of music".
"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," he said.
UPC said that it noted the 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".