UPC confirms illegal download court hearing against ‘Big Four’ next week

30 Jun 2009

Cable broadband provider UPC has confirmed that it has been served with a plenary summons by solicitors acting on behalf of the ‘Big Four’ record labels EMI, Warner, Universal and Sony over its refusal to implement a ‘three strikes’ against illegal downloaders.

UPC told siliconrepublic.com that it is now preparing its defence and intends to “vigorously defend its position” in court.

The case stems from the out-of-court settlement agreed between the Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA) – which represents the Big Four labels – and Eircom in January, whereby Eircom agreed to implement a ‘three strikes and you’re out’ policy against illegal peer-to-peer (P2P) downloaders.

In recent months, Irish ISPs have received legal letters from IRMA’s solicitors asking them to follow Eircom or face legal action.

“UPC has made its position clear from the outset – it will not agree to a request that goes beyond what is currently provided under existing legislation,” the company said today.

“There is no basis under Irish law requiring ISPs to control, access or block the internet content its users download. In addition, the rights holders’ proposal gives rise to serious concerns for data privacy and consumer contract law.

“Irish and European law maintains a careful balance between the rights and obligations of copyright owners, internet users and ISPs. The three strikes policy that was agreed in private with Eircom as part of the settlement, and any attempt to impose in upon the industry generally, seriously undermines that balance,” UPC said.

The company said it was unfortunate that the Big Four labels and IRMA did not take up a suggestion to establish a stakeholder forum that would include participation from ISPs, the Data Protection Commission, the National Consumer Agency and Irish government departments.

“UPC has always taken a strong stance against illegal activity on its network. It takes all steps required by the law to combat specific infringements which are brought to its attention, and will continue to co-operate with rightsholders where they have obtained the necessary court orders for alleged copyright infringements.

“It is regretful that the rightsholders have decided to go down the legal route, as both sides share a common goal which targets to eradicate piracy,” UPC said.

In recent weeks, the French Constitutional Court overturned the controversial HADOPI legislation that introduced a ‘three strikes’ regime in France for persistent copyright infringers, which would eventually result in the perpetrator losing their internet connection.

The HADOPI legislation, the French Constitutional Court ruled, goes directly against a decision in the European Parliament – Amendment 138 – whereby disconnecting alleged copyright infringers would violate the fundamental rights and freedoms of internet users.

By John Kennedy