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Ireland court finds no anti-piracy laws authorizing suspension of Internet service

The Irish High Court [official website] ruled Monday that the country does not recognize any laws that would allow Internet services providers to suspend service to customers suspected of Internet piracy. The judgment was issued after the Irish recording industry attempted to have an injunction brought [Irish Times report] against broadband provider UPC [corporate website], requiring the company to suspend service to customers engaged in illegal music downloading [JURIST news archive]. UPC denied having direct knowledge [Irish Examiner report] of the illegal practice and said that they were merely a conduit for the activity. In his ruling, Justice Peter Charleton rejected UPC's claims and indicated that he did not accept UPC's evidence that they were unaware of the illegal process. He also noted the destructive effect [BBC report] that illegal downloading has on Ireland's music industry. Charleton indicated that if there were a legal basis for issuing the injunction he would have done so, but, because Irish law does not allow for the disconnection of service to suspected Internet pirates, issuing the injunction could be a breach of European law. Following the court's ruling, UPC stated that they do not condone Internet piracy, but that they should not be held responsible for content transmitted across their networks. A spokesperson for the Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA) [trade association website], a music industry association involved with the lawsuit, indicated their disappointment with the ruling, stating that the Irish government has failed to protect the rights of copyright holders. IRMA also noted that they are considering appealing the ruling to the Irish Supreme Court or lobbying the government directly for changes to the country's anti-piracy laws.

Online piracy has assumed increasing importance in the eyes of legislators across Europe, and many countries have considered legislation that would allow the suspension of Internet services in order to deter internet piracy. In April, the UK Parliament [official website] approved legislation [text, JURIST report] authorizing the suspension of Internet service for those who repeatedly download copyrighted material illegally. The act also received Royal Assent [text] and is now law. The Digital Economy Bill calls on internet service providers (ISPs) to block download sites, reduce a user's broadband speeds, and ultimately shut down a user's internet access in order to prevent piracy of copyrighted materials. Last October, the French Constitutional Court approved a similar bill after the legislation was given final approval by the French Parliament [JURIST reports] the previous month. Under the French law, the government can send notices to Internet service providers to terminate an individual's internet access for up to one year after a third violation of intellectual property laws for downloading or sharing movies and music.

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