A recent Intellectual Property Court decision in Portugal determined that the main telecommunications operators have until the end of March to block the access of its users to The Pirate Bay domains, either through its main (Swedish) domain name “thepiratebay.se” or other alternative domain names.

The decision was issued in the scope of an injunction filed by Audiogest – Associação para a Gestão e Distribuição de Direitos and by GEDIPE – Associação para a Gestão de Direitos de Autor, Produtores e Editores, both copyright collective management organisations, against the main telecommunications operators in Portugal. The decision was based on intellectual property rights infringements taking into consideration the illegal contents of the websites. Similar decisions were issued around the world. For example, in France the Paris High Court requested the major Internet Services Providers to block The Pirate Bay within two weeks.

Also in Portugal there were similar decisions of blocking the access to websites where football matches were being transmitted without the adequate license. However, in said cases, the decision was addressed to unknown persons and not to the operators, being this, the first decision addressed directly to telecom operators.   

The challenge will be to ensure that these decisions are adequately enforced, since there are alternative ways to access to such websites which are publicly available. As one of the founders of The Pirate Bay recently said in a conference held in Portugal, this measure is most likely to be ineffective as there are always other mechanisms in order to circumvent the access to the websites.

A solution that seems to be more effective is the reinforcement of sanctions for copyright breach. In Spain a number of popular P2P sites have removed in the past months links that led to pirated content because of the introduction of more severe economic penalties through an amendment of the Spanish Intellectual Property Act that came into force on the 1st January.

Furthermore, a recent ruling of the Spanish High Court Audiencia Nacional sentenced the administrators of a webpage that pirated different newspapers and magazines (youkioske.com) to three years in prison for breaching intellectual property rights and another three for operating as a criminal organization. According to the ruling, they will also have to pay a compensation to the rights owners for an amount yet to be determined.

Joâo Costa Quinta (ABBC), Margarida Leitâo (ABBC)