The Irish Commercial Court has ordered nine ISPs to block three websites offering illegal downloading or streaming of copyrighted movies and TV shows.  The action was brought by Motion Pictures Association, representing six film and TV studios.  The Court held that it was clear there had been infringement of copyright, that it would not result in the lawful use of the internet being interfered with and the order was proportionate to the damage being caused. None of the ISPs opposed the application for the injunction.  However one ISP raised concerns about cost implications of dealing with a large number of sites into the future, and asked the court to put a cap on the number of illegal website notifications a month, which movie companies could direct ISPs to block.  The Judge refused to grant a cap on notifications.

The Irish courts have made a number of similar orders in the past, requiring ISPs to block customers from accessing copyright-infringing websites, including Pirate Bay and the Kat Torrent websites.  The CJEU also confirmed in Kabel Wien (27 March 2014), that, pursuant to Article 8(3) of the Information Society Directive (2001/29/EC) (the 2001 Directive) – implemented in Ireland by section 40(5A) of the Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000 – an ISP may be ordered to block its customers’ access to a copyright-infringing website.  Such an injunction and its enforcement, must, however, be necessary and proportionate. In that case, CJEU held that an order sought by two film companies requiring UPC Wien qua ISP to block access to a particular website, which was offering either the downloading or the streaming of films to which they held the copyright, was compatible with Article 8(3) of the 2001 Directive.

In the Irish Court of Appeal case of Sony Music Entertainment (Ireland) Ltd. & Ors v UPC Communications Ireland Ltd [2016] IECA 231, Judge Hogan acknowledged that there are, however, some in-built limitations to the scope of any injunction against ISPs. In particular, Article 15(1) of the Electronic Commerce Directive (2000/31/EC) provides that Member States “shall not impose a general obligation” on ISPs to monitor the information which they transmit or store, nor a general obligation “actively to seek facts or circumstances indicating illegal activity”. 

The decision will be welcomed by rightholders, as illegal downloading and streaming has been causing substantial damage to film, TV and music industries.  The decision confirms the jurisdiction of the courts to order ISPs to block their customers from accessing piracy websites, where the injunction ensures a fair balance between the fundamental rights of rightholders, the freedom to conduct a business by ISPs, and the freedom of information by internet users.