The Commercial Court (a division of the High Court) has granted an order compelling certain Irish internet service providers (ISPs) to block the illegal live streaming of a particular sporting competition for 2019/2020.
The Court acknowledged that the live streaming was causing considerable damage to the organising body of the competition.
Why is this case so important?
This was a landmark case as it was the first application heard by the Irish Court which targeted streaming servers rather than websites or end users. Under the terms of the order, the live streaming will be disabled in real time across several platforms including set top boxes, computers, apps and other devices.
Who are the defendants?
The ISPs were Eircom, Sky Ireland, Sky Subscribers Services Limited, Virgin Media Ireland and Vodafone Ireland which have a combined share of the Irish fixed broadband market of over 90%.
What are the criteria to grant the injunction?
In order to grant a blocking injunction under Irish copyright legislation, the High Court had to satisfy itself that:
- the injunction was necessary
- the costs involved were not excessive or disproportionate and that the order itself should not be unduly complicated
- the cost sharing proposals were fair and responsible
- the order respected the fundamental rights of the parties affected, including internet users and
- the duration of the proposed injunction and the provisions for review were reasonable
The Court was satisfied that the order sought fulfilled the above criteria.
The Court noted that similar blocking orders had been granted in the UK and that they had been extremely effective in reducing the number of illegal streams. Research showed, in relation to music and films, that blocking orders at a website level caused a 90% drop in visits to the blocked sites and led to a 22% decrease in total piracy for all users affected by the blocks. It also led to an increase of 6% in visits to paid legal streaming sites like Netflix and a 10% increase in videos viewed on legal ad-supported streaming sites like BBC.
The Court accepted that, in the current case, appropriate safeguards were in place to ensure that the order did not impact on legitimate internet users. While the organising body was given the right to apply to extend the order, as this was the first order of its kind in Ireland, the Court ordered that it be reviewed at the time of the next application
How will this judgment impact the sports industry in Ireland?
The outcome of the case will be welcome news to those in the sports industry in Ireland because online copyright infringement causes substantial damage and has a detrimental effect on the industry in Ireland.