An action brought by four record companies (EMI Records (Ireland) Ltd; SONY BMG Music Entertainment (Ireland) Ltd; Universal Music (Ireland) Ltd and Warner Music (Ireland) Ltd) against Ireland’s largest internet service provider, Eircom, in which they sought orders under the Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000 to restrain Eircom from infringing copyright in sound recordings that were owned by, or exclusively licensed to, the record companies by making available copies of those recordings to the public (through Eircom’s internet service facilities) without their consent, has been settled.

The case which was taken in the Irish Commercial Court (High Court) was the first action of its kind against an Irish internet service provider (rather than individual illegal downloaders). It was originally listed to run for four weeks but was settled on Wednesday, 28 January. The settlement, as reported, will involve Eircom implementing a “three strikes and you are out” regime in respect of Eircom customers who upload/download music illegally. The record companies will use a service which poses as a P2P file sharer to target and identify illegal downloaders. Eircom will be supplied with the identified IP addresses and will notify the subscribers in question that they have been identified as infringing copyright, warn them that unless the activity ceases they will be disconnected, and ultimately disconnect them in the event of failure to comply.

The record companies had wanted Eircom to install specialist software on their network that would detect the unique “finger print” of copyrighted music files which were being illegally uploaded and downloaded on its network. Eircom had resisted this claiming that it was not technically feasible and also that it would have interfered with the operation of its network and services. The settlement means that Eircom does not have to provide details of any of its subscribers who are suspected of copyright infringement to the music industry - something which can give rise to significant privacy and data protection implications.

The four record companies are now expected to focus their attention on other internet service providers in Ireland in an effort to force them to put similar arrangements in place.