After the TV and film industry claimed that around a third of the Irish population stream illegally, Irish ISPs have now been forced to block three websites to the public.
The fight against the illegal streaming of TV and films – particularly from the US – has been ramping up of late, both in Ireland and internationally.
Websites offering content for free have been firmly within the crosshairs of the industry, as well as devices such as Android boxes that offer professional-like access to pirated content.
Three websites blocked
The Motion Picture Association (MPA) is fighting back – not against the users themselves, but against the internet service providers (ISPs) that are effectively providing access.
In February, it was revealed that Ireland was the latest country to come under the scrutiny of the industry’s legal teams. Nine of the country’s largest ISPs were taken to court to try and prevent access to streaming sites.
The commercial division of the High Court in Dublin has ruled in favour of the content producers, with all of the ISPs involved now legally required to block access to three websites, possibly expanding to more in the near future.
These include Movies4k.to, PrimeWire.ag and OnWatchSeries.to.
The MPA’s action against these sites included all of the largest players in the film industry: Warner Bros Entertainment, 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, Disney, Universal Studios and Sony/Columbia Pictures.
Eir raises question
At that time, the legal team cited figures compiled by a company hired by the MPA, which claimed that in October 2016, these three websites had more than 3m visits.
It also mentioned figures from Grant Thornton stating that this activity cost the Irish State €71m in 2015, and saw hundreds of jobs being lost in stores such as HMV because of piracy.
While the Irish ISPs did not fight the order (having decided to take a neutral stance), Eir did raise an issue it had with potential procedure, should the ban extend to other websites in the future.
Eir’s legal representative suggested that a cap of 50 notifications for closing access be allowed per month, but the MPA’s lawyers and Justice Brian Cregan rejected this request.
Welcoming the decision, Andrew Lowe of Dublin-based Element Pictures said: “These websites, which act as illegal middlemen, steal with one hand and give freely with the other and, ultimately, drive a wedge between creators and their audience.
“This is not a victimless crime. Allowing piracy to continue unchecked will inevitably lead to a sustained drop in the quality of available content created here, damage the Irish economy and result in the loss of more Irish jobs.”