Sunday 19 November 2017

'This is not a victimless crime - piracy results in the loss of Irish jobs' - injunction blocking illegal downloading sites welcomed by industry

Oscar hope: The Lobster, starring Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz, is up for best screenplay
Oscar hope: The Lobster, starring Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz, is up for best screenplay
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

Film and TV piracy is threatening up to 18,000 Irish jobs, according to Irish filmmakers and bodies.

Six film and television studios yesterday secured a high Court injunction directing internet service providers (ISPs) to block websites providing illegal downloading of film and TV shows to the public.

Andrew Lowe, of Element Pictures, the Dublin based studio behind hits including Room, and The Lobster, The Guard and Frank, supported the legal action.

“These websites, which act as illegal middlemen, steal with one hand and give freely with the other and ultimately drive a wedge between creators and their audience," he said.

Brendan Gleeson in The Guard
Brendan Gleeson in The Guard

“This is not a victimless crime.  Allowing piracy to continue unchecked will inevitably lead to a sustained drop in the quality of available content created here, damage the Irish economy and result in the loss of more Irish jobs."

The studios claimed up to 1.3m users in Ireland may be involved in illegally accessing thier films via various websites, therefore damaging the industry in Ireland and resulting in the loss of 500 jobs in 2015 and €320m in lost revenues.

The Irish film industry employs over 7,000 people directly and up to 18,000 including those in services supporting the sector e.g., marketing, security, catering etc.

David Burke, Chairman of the Industry Trust for IP Awareness, Ireland, said that it is vital consumers know where legal content is available so they can watch quality entertainment the way it was meant to be seen.

“Ireland has a talented and growing film Industry which employs some 18,000 people, from those in front of and behind the camera making films, to the cinema workers selling you popcorn and tickets, plus the many others making this all happen inbetween. It is vital that we all support this ongoing action to help protect those jobs and provide investment for the future.

“As an industry, we are continuously offering audiences more legitimate places to watch and enjoy creative content in a safe environment."

Although consumers can access content from legitimate sources including Sky, Volta.ie and Netflix, as many as one in five adults (or one in three young adults) have accessed copyrighted material from an illegal source in the last 12 months.

The six studios - Twentieth Century Fox, Warner Bros Entertainment, Paramount Pictures, Disney Enterprises, Universal Studios, Sony Pictures Television and Columbia Pictures secured the injunction against three websites - movie4k.to, primewire.ag and the website currently located at onwatchseries.to

In the UK similar siteblocking action has led to a 75% drop in traffic to blocked sites and a 25% drop in activity in the overall UK piracy.

Read more: Irish internet providers ordered to block access to three streaming sites

 

 

 

 

Mr Justice Brian Cregan  was satisfied to make the orders against a number of internet service providers because "it was clear from the evidence" before the court that breaches of the studio's copyright had "manifestly occurred."

The orders would not amount to a breach of the lawful use of the internet nor were they disproportionate, the judge said. 

The studios are Twentieth Century Fox, Warner Bros. Entertainment, Paramount Pictures, Disney Enterprises, Universal Studios, Sony Pictures Television and Columbia Pictures and their case is supported by independent distributors and filmmakers in Ireland.

The proceedings were against: Eircom, Sky Ireland, Vodafone Ireland, Virgin Media Ireland, Three Ireland, Digiweb, Imagine Telecommunications,  and Magnet Networks.

None had opposed the application and the court heard that they had adopted a neutral stance to the orders sought.

The studios, all members of the Motion Picture Association had sought the orders on grounds including that up to 1.3m users here may be involved in illegally accessing their films via various websites.

 

Mr Justice Cregan's orders require the ISPs to block or disable access by subscribers to a number of  websites, known as "streaming" websites including movie4k.to, primewire.ag and the website currently located at onwatchseries.to

While there was no opposition, the court was asked to deal with issues raised by Eir (formerly Eircom) which expressed concerns about the costs of dealing with such sites or domain names in the future. 

Eir said there were cost implications if it had to deal with a large number of these sites and it wanted the court to put a cap on the number of notifications per month the movie companies could make directing the ISPs to block websites.

Conor McDonnell, solicitor for Eir, said his client was suggesting a cap of perhaps 50 notifications per month. The movie companies said their were opposed to any cap.

Mr Justice Cregan said there should be no cap on the amount of notifications for the time being.

The judge, who noted that there was a lack of evidence from any party as to how many notifications might be needed, said that he was persuaded by the argument  that any cap might not be effective or dissuasive.

The judge, who welcomed that Eir and the movie studios had resolved another outstanding issue in relation to the temporary blocking of certain websites also ruled that no costs order should be made in the case.

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