Music firms secure order on Eircom deal


FOUR MUSIC companies have secured a court order quashing a notice issued by the Data Protection Commissioner directing Eircom to stop implementing an agreement with them aimed at combating the illegal downloading of music.

EMI Records (Ireland) Ltd, Sony Music Entertainment Ireland Ltd, Universal Music Ireland Ltd and Warner Music Ireland Ltd had challenged the commissioner’s enforcement notice of December 5th last directing Eircom to stop implementing the “three strikes and you’re out” agreement.

Under that agreement, Eircom subscribers would lose their internet access for a week after three copyright infringements and lose access completely after four breaches. The commissioner had issued his notice arising from his view the agreement breached data protection and privacy laws.

The companies claimed the notice would effectively unwind their agreement with Eircom and argued it was an unlawful and irrational attempt to reopen data protection issues already determined by the courts in their favour. The commissioner denied those claims. At the Commercial Court yesterday, Mr Justice Peter Charleton issued a reserved judgment quashing the enforcement notice.

The judge found the notice was invalid due to the failure by the commissioner to give reasons why it had been issued. The reasons which appeared to underpin the notice, to the extent they could be ascertained, also “involved a misconstruction of the relevant law”, the judge said.

While privacy was central to the arguments by the commissioner during the hearing, due to the lack of reasons in the notice, the motivation behind the commissioner’s condemnation of any music company protecting its own interest against illegal downloading was not clear, the judge said.

The Irish Recorded Music Association said last night it would press ahead with its campaign to implement a “three strikes and you are out” rule following yesterday’s judgment.