UPC fights top labels over illegal downloads
FIVE record companies went into court yesterday to try and force a broadband provider to stop users illegally downloading their music.
EMI Records (Ireland) Ltd, Sony Music Entertainment Ireland Ltd, Universal Music Ireland Ltd, Warner Music Ireland Ltd and WEA International Incorporated are seeking orders requiring cable firm UPC to block or disable access to websites where music can be illegally downloaded.
The companies say UPC's failure to do so infringes their copyright and breaches Irish and European law.
Opening the case at the Commercial Court yesterday, Michael McDowell, senior counsel for the companies, said they did not accept UPC's claims it was a "mere conduit", which could do nothing to prevent illegal downloading.
Mr McDowell said UPC had written to the companies asking them to discontinue the legal action pending the issue of illegal downloading being addressed by legislation but there was no indication if or when legislation would be enacted or even that there was a consensus in the Dail about any form of legislation.
Similar proceedings were brought previously by the companies against Eircom, which settled on terms including the companies providing Eircom with the IP (internet protocol) addresses of all persons detected as illegally file-sharing copyrighted works.
Eircom also agreed to operate a "three strikes and you're out" policy against subscribers who ignored warnings to cease infringements.
Under that system, subscribers get three warnings they have been found sharing music owned by members of the Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA). If they are caught a fourth time, their broadband connection will be cut off for a year.
The music firms are also in talks with Vodafone and Eircom subsidiary Meteor Ireland aimed at securing their agreement to a similar system.
In an affidavit, Willie Kavanagh, chairman of IRMA, said it had asked UPC and another service provider, BT Communications, in February 2009 to agree to implement the same measures but both declined. BT had since been taken over by Vodafone.
UPC said the companies' proposals were unacceptable because they did not take into account the rights and interests of subscribers or of UPC itself. It also denies that copyright law applies in the manner alleged by the companies.
The record companies had experts carry out a "48-hour scan" which found some 37,500 copyright infringements on UPC per month, Mr Kavanagh said.
The record companies have also initiated proceedings against O2 and 3 Ireland aimed at securing their agreement to implement a similar system to that agreed with Eircom.
UPC is the country's third biggest broadband provider with 15pc of the market and 148,000 subscribers. The hearing continues next week.