ISP's in the frame

Mr Justice Charleton in EMI Records & Ors -v- Eircom Ltd has made some interesting comments about the exposure of ISP's to injunctions in relation to digital piracy and also the ability of ISP's to hide behind data protection legislation. Essentially this seems to be another nail in the coffin of the "we didn't know it was happening, guv'nor" defence the ISP's have been using.

"When the internet gained wide currency in the 1990s many of its adages began to believe that a new form of reality had been created. Some felt that it should be subject to no rules since, as it was not based in a particular country, but as its name implies is a world-wide web of communication, unlike the previous means of communication through the post, by telephone, through television or through films, it seemed to be impossible to subject to local regulation. That is not so. Nor should it be. In common with other aspects of life, the internet has a positive and dark side. On the positive side, its aids free communication; it opens up avenues of knowledge so that it has become a centre of learning in itself; it furthers public debate; and has established the swiftest and most far reaching form of communication that humanity has known. It is, on the other hand, also thickly populated by fraudsters, pornographers of the worst kind and cranks."

Crucially he also addresses the question of whether ISP's who do not themselves illegally place infringing material on their networks have exposure;

"In the Copyright and Related Rights Acts 2000, as amended, references to the right of the copyright holder in section 40 to make available to the public copies of a work are declared to include such acts as broadcasting the work, issuing copies of it or renting out copies; as in DVD library. Then, after establishing those legal entitlements in the holder of copyright, subs. 3 and 4 of that section go together and I quote them:-

“3. Subject to subsection 4, the provision of facilities for enabling the making available to the public of copies of a work shall not of itself constitute an act of making available to the public of copies of the work.
4. Without prejudice to subsection 3, where a person who provides facilities referred to in that subsection is notified by the owner of the copyright in the work concerned that those facilities are being used to infringe the copyright in that work and that person fails to remove that infringing material as soon as practicable, thereafter that person shall also be liable for the infringement.”

Injunctions are granted by the court where it “just and convenient”. That is the basis for all equitable relief formalised by the Supreme Court of Judicature (Ireland) Act 1875. I interpret the Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000 as extending to the making of injunction against an innocent third party in order to block, in the appropriate way that is convenient as to the balance between the parties and that is just, as to their standing and conduct, the wholesale illegal destruction of the right to livelihood through creative effort which copyright, as a fundamental concept in law, is designed to defend and to vindicate.

This is further good news for copyright holders.