Thursday 18 January 2018

Irish internet providers ordered to block access to three streaming sites

Stock image
Stock image

Tim Healy

SIX major film and television studios have secured High Court injunction directing internet service providers (ISPs) to block websites involved in the illegal downloading of film and TV shows.

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.

Represented by Jonathan Newman SC the companies argued digital piracy is costing the studios hundreds of millions annually and, according to recent research, lead to the loss of 500 jobs here in 2015 and €320m in lost revenues, they claimed.

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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