UPC victory highlights clear gap in Irish copyright laws

12 Oct 2010

UPC’s momentous victory yesterday over some of the world’s biggest music labels including Warner, EMI, Universal and Sony highlights a key gap in copyright laws and this may spur the Irish Government into plugging this gap, a legal expert believes.

Yesterday, UPC Communications Ireland Limited succeeded in its opposition of the “three strikes” rule being imposed by Warner Music, Universal Music, Sony BMG and EMI Records which sought to thwart illegal downloading and file sharing via the internet.

Mr Justice Peter Charleton was cognisant of the financial harm being suffered by record labels due to illegal downloading. He stated: “This not only undermines their business but ruins the ability of a generation of creative people in Ireland, and elsewhere, to establish a viable living. It is destructive of an important native industry.” 

However, he held that laws seeking to identify and disconnect copyright infringers were not enforceable in Ireland, regardless of the appropriateness of the record companies’ complaints.

“The judge highlighted the deficiency in Irish law which resulted in Ireland currently having no mechanisms to forcibly disconnect internet users who engage in illegal downloading and commented that this results in Ireland breaching its obligations under European Union legislation,” said David Cullen of William Fry Solicitors.

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

Cullen warned it is likely the decision will have ramification for a similar settlement agreement entered into between the record labels and Eircom.

“It is hoped that the clear gap in Irish law, and the recognition of this gap by Mr Justice Peter Charleton, may spur the enactment of appropriate legislation by the Irish Government in order to protect the rights of copyright holders,” Cullen said.

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