The Pirate Bay - a notorious torrent sharing site - is to be blocked by mid-July after the High Court ordered six of the country's major internet service providers (ISPs) to take blocking action against the site.

EMI, Sony, Universal and Warner Music applied to the High Court seeking to have access to the site blocked. They argued that the site is causing them an annual loss of revenue of approximately $20 million due to lost sales of music, film, TV and video-game content. It is estimated that some 200,000 internet users in Ireland access the site monthly and illegally download pirated material.

The six ISPs involved are UPC, Vodafone, O2 Ireland, 3 Ireland, Imagine and Digiweb. Collectively, they took a neutral stance to the application and accepted the cost of blocking the site. However, they did raise concern over their liability for their own legal costs given that they are not party to the infringing activity.

This decision comes after Ireland signed a controversial statutory instrument amending the Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000 last year. This change in the law makes express provision for copyright owners to seek injunctions against ISPs and other intermediaries where copyright infringement is alleged. It also gives the courts an express power to make orders to protect the exclusive rights of copyright holders.

A number of blocking orders have been made by the English courts against The Pirate Bay and other file-sharing websites. It has recently been reported that the Premier League is to seek an order requiring ISPs to block FirstRow1.eu, a football streaming website causing a loss to the companies who have the exclusive rights to show sports coverage. If the Premier League is successful in its bid to block this site, it will be the first order of its type granted against a supply site in the United Kingdom.

These cases highlight the ability of rights holders to enforce valuable intellectual property rights against piracy sites and a new era of court action against internet intermediaries.

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