Digital Rights Ireland almost bankrupted by internet blocking case

2 Jan 2014

Digital Rights Ireland says it faces being shut down due to legal costs it owes the music industry after losing a court action last year and it has appealed to the public for donations to cover the costs.

The digital rights advocacy group faced a financial setback after failing in an application for a right to speak in a court case regarding internet blocking in Ireland in February last year.

Not only did the group fail in its application, but it also had costs awarded against it by the court.

While Irish ISPs didn’t pursue the group for costs, Digital Rights Ireland (DRI) says the music industry demanded €26,658 – subsequently reduced to €13,700 with further costs of €1,900.

The lost court battle – effectively after just a single day in court – followed a successful case taken earlier in the year by Digital Rights Ireland over mass surveillance that was described by MEP Philipp Albrecht as a “breakthrough for civil liberties.”

This successful case resulted in the Advocate-General deciding that the Data Retention Directive was incompatible with the European Charter of Fundamental Rights and could soon lead to a judgment in the European Court of Justice that could lead to greater privacy rights for all Europeans.

Financial setback

Referring to the financial setback arising from the case last February, DRI explained in its blog: “We applied to be an ‘amicus curiae’ in a case brought by record companies demanding internet blocking in Ireland. This would have given us the right to speak in court – to explain why blocking is futile and how overblocking affects other websites and harms internet users. Otherwise the Irish courts can order blocking based only on the say so of the music industry – without anyone to challenge their case.

“The judge gave a detailed decision. However, the upshot was that we did not succeed in our application. What’s more, costs were awarded against us. This meant that we had to pay the bills of the other parties to the case. The ISPs did not pursue costs against us, but the music industry did – demanding that we pay them €26,658.15 for what was, in effect, a single day in court. We challenged that bill and it was reduced to €13,700 – but we had to pay further costs of €1,900 to do so.”

DRI says unless it pays the bill it faces closure and has appealed for public support to cover the costs through donations via PayPal.

“You might think that litigation in Ireland is outrageously expensive. You might think that this favours industry over the rights of the individual and cripples civil society. We wouldn’t quibble. Be that as it may, we now need to raise money to cover these costs.”

Legal costs image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years