Eircom taken to court over illegal music downloads

 

Four major record companies have brought a High Court action aimed at compelling Eircom to take measures to prevent its networks being used for the illegal downloading of music.

The case is the first in Ireland aimed at internet service providers, rather than individual illegal downloaders.

Eircom is the largest broadband internet service provider in the State.

Latest figures available, for 2006, indicate that 20 billion music files were illegally downloaded worldwide that year. The music industry estimates that for every single legal downloaded, there are 20 illegal ones.

Due to illegal downloading and other factors, the Irish music industry is experiencing "a dramatic and accelerating decline" in income, with the Irish market suffering a decline in total sales from €146 million in 2001 to €102 million last year, said Willie Kavanagh, managing director of EMI records (Ireland) and chairman of the Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA).

Mr Kavanagh told the High Court he would attribute a substantial portion of that decline to illegal peer-to-peer downloading services and the increasing availability of broadband internet access.

The record companies are also challenging Eircom's refusal to use filtering technology or other measures to voluntary block, or filter, material from its network that is being used to download music in violation of the companies' copyright and/or licensing rights.

Eircom's lawyers said the company was not on notice of specific illegal activity that infringed the rights of the companies and had no legal obligation to monitor traffic on its network.

Mr Kavanagh said that, "with the greatest of respect" to Eircom, it was "well aware" its facilities were being used to violate the property rights of record companies "on a grand scale".

Mr Justice Peter Kelly today admitted the proceedings - brought by EMI Records (Ireland), Sony BMG Music Entertainment (Ireland), Universal Music (Ireland) and Warner Music (Ireland) against Eircom - into the list of the Commercial Court.

In the action, the companies want orders - under the Copyright and Related Rights Acts 2000 - restraining Eircom from infringing copyright in the sound recordings owned by, or exclusively licensed to them, by making available (through Eircom's internet service facilities) copies of those recordings to the public without the companies' consent.