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Irish ISP is forced to set up three-strikes

By | Published on Monday 30 March 2015


The High Court in Ireland has told internet service provider UPC that it must introduce a three-strikes system to help combat online piracy. It means the net firm must start sending warning letters to suspected file-sharers with the threat of sanctions against those customers who ignore the warnings, and according to the ruling the record companies need only cover 20% of the costs associated with the scheme.

Five years ago three-strikes was the anti-piracy measure of choice for many copyright owners, with lobbying efforts by music and movie companies in various countries, including the UK, resulting in an obligation on ISPs to operate some kind of ‘graduated response’ system being added to copyright law. Not that it ever really got off the ground here, and even the French system – perhaps the fiercest of all the three-strikes initiatives – somewhat ran aground when it reached strike three.

However, in Ireland, market-leading ISP Eircom voluntarily introduced three-strikes as part of a settlement deal with the major record companies. For their part the labels agreed to pressure the net firm’s competitors to likewise join the three-strikes party, but Ireland’s other ISPs were not keen on the idea, and fought back in both the press and the courts. UPC was particularly vocal in its opposition to the three-strikes system, arguing – with some success – that only a change in Irish law could force its hand.

But last year the Irish record industry launched new legal proceedings against the ISP, perhaps feeling that opinion in both political and judicial circles had shifted in its favour on this issue in recent years. And seemingly it was right.

Based on arguments presented to Ireland’s Commercial Court in January, the judge hearing the case published his ruling last week, and pretty much sided with the labels outright, rejecting UPC’s argument that it wasn’t its job to police how its customers use the internet. Saying that “wholesale theft” was occurring on UPC’s networks, judge Brian Cregan ruled that “the [illegal] downloading of music for free is destroying the intellectual property rights of creative artists and should be a matter of great concern in any civilised society”.

According to Ireland’s Independent newspaper, he went on: “The current generation of writers, performers and interpreters of music cannot have their livelihoods destroyed by advances in technology which allow persons to breach their constitutional rights with impunity”.

UPC and the labels now have a month to propose to the court how they will implement the new three-strikes system. It remains to be seen if UPC has any more fight in it, and if not, whether similar action will now be taken by the labels against the other ISPs in Ireland.