Irish ISP sued by four major record companies

From the RTE website:

“Four record companies have brought a High Court action to compel Eircom – the State’s largest broadband service provider – to prevent its networks being used for the illegal downloading of music.

It’s the first case to be aimed at the service provider rather than at individual illegal downloaders.

The four record companies taking the action are EMI, Sony BMG, Universal Music and Warner Music.

Willie Kavanagh, Managing Director of EMI Ireland and Chairman of the Irish Recorded Music Association, said because of illegal downloading and other factors, the Irish music industry was experiencing a “dramatic and accelerating decline” in income. 

He said sales in the Irish market dropped 30% in the six years up to 2007.

EMI and the other companies are challenging Eircom’s refusal to use filtering technology or other measures to voluntarily block or filter illegally downloaded material.

Last October Eircom told the companies it was not in a position to use the filtering software.

Eircom also told the companies that it was not on notice of specific illegal activity which infringed the companies’ rights and it had no legal obligation to monitor traffic on its network.”

From the Irish Times (behind a pay wall):

“FOUR MAJOR record companies have brought an unprecedented High Court action aimed at compelling Eircom, as the largest broadband internet service provider in the State, to take specific measures to prevent its networks being used for the illegal free downloading of music by computer users.

The case is the first here aimed at internet service providers, rather than individual illegal downloaders, ……

In his affidavit, Mr Kavanagh outlined measures by the record industry aimed at discouraging record piracy, including public awareness campaigns and legal actions against individuals.

He said legal actions brought against persons with the highest numbers of illegal files on their computers at specific times had proven costly and time consuming. The record companies believed selective legal action was not sufficient to safeguard their property rights and the deterrent effect of such cases was not enough to stop people using illegal services on a broad scale.

Mr Kavanagh said the reality for many young people was that they had never known a position where they actually had – as a practical matter, rather than as a matter of law – to pay for sound recordings.”


Digital is digital. Whether it’s audio, video, text or pictures, once it becomes digital it just becomes a stream of ones and zeros.

To properly filter traffic on the network ISPs would have to intercept all the packets on the network, identify the ones destined for users on their IP addresses (as peering arrangements mean a lot of traffic is transitory), test the unencrypted packets against the fingerprints they have for filtering and then check to see whether the content is being used in a way that is infringing copyright law as it exists on the statute books in that jurisdiction.

A number of questions arise from this. What would they do with the encrypted traffic? Should they assume nefarious intent and refuse to carry it? How do they test what is copyright infringement? How do they know the fingerprints they have correctly correlate with the content they are associated with? Once ISPs are capturing all packets on their network are they legally obliged to filter for other civil or criminal lawbreaking?

I can understand the music companies wanting to target the ISPs. They have bigger and deeper pockets than the individual actually committing copyright infringement, but you have to ask yourself a question if you’re a music executive – how well has the business model of suing worked so far? Getting ISPs into court may well be a bargaining position to move towards a blanket licence model. This would not be a dumb idea, but unfortunately the track record to date would suggest otherwise.

My advice. Take the thing that makes the Internet what it is and use it to your advantage. If you recognise computers as wonderful copying machines, digital content as a perfect format to be copied and the Internet as an ideal medium for
distributing copied content then all you need is to refocus your concepts on what your content is for.  I could go on but why bother trying to save an industry that seems so determined to run itself into the ground. I can’t begin to tell you how much negative feeling I have towards Eircom for abusing their near monopoly position in Ireland. They have a very poor roll-out of broadband and the prices they charge (with capped downloads!) are outrageous – but suddenly they now look like heroes. That’s some achievement by the record industry!

One response

  1. broadband services these days are getting and cheaper and faster too, very soon we would have an affordable Gigabit internet `

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