Record labels fail in bid to get UPC to implement ‘three strikes’

11 Oct 2010

Attempts by prominent record labels to get cable broadband provider UPC to put in place a ‘three strikes’ regime against illegal file sharers as they agreed with Eircom, have failed.

In the High Court today Justice Peter Charleton said that while he recognised the record industry’s revenues were being devastated by illegal downloading, the court could not grant the record companies an injunction against UPC because Ireland does not have the laws in place to prevent internet copyright theft.

This is despite a ruling by Justice Charleton in April where he provided a strong defence of the rights of copyright holders and effectively swept aside concerns of the Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawke that this could result in the invasion of privacy.

The case follows an out-of-court settlement last year in a case taken by the big four record companies – EMI, Sony, Warner and Universal – against Eircom.

In January 2009, as part of an out-of-court settlement with IRMA, Eircom agreed to implement a ‘three strikes and you’re out’ policy against illegal peer-to-peer (P2P) downloaders.

It also agreed to work with data provided by the Big Four labels to help them pinpoint and pursue illegal downloaders and uploaders. The ruling set a precedent and it was expected that all other ISPs in the Irish market would be compelled to co-operate with the music industry.

However, UPC decided to fight a High Court battle against the Big Four labels who have requested they implement a three strikes policies. UPC has consistently maintained there is no basis in Irish law requiring them to do so.

Not liable

In a statement today UPC said: “The company has reiterated it will continue to work with key stakeholders with a view to identifying and addressing the main areas of concern of all relevant parties in the file-sharing debate.

“Key stakeholders would include the rightsholders, ISPs, the Data Protection Commission, the National Consumer Agency as well as the various Departments of Government that have responsibility for Copyright and Electronic Commerce Directives (Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment and the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources).

“UPC has repeatedly stressed that it does not condone piracy and 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 rights holders where they have obtained the necessary Court Orders for alleged copyright infringements.

“Our whole premise and defense focused on the mere conduit principal which provides that an internet service provider (ISP) cannot be held liable for content transmitted across its network and today’s decision supports the principle that ISPs are not liable for the actions of internet subscribers.”

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