Irish ISP: We Won't Block The Pirate Bay

Ireland's largest ISP won't block The Pirate Bay -- the embattled BitTorrent search engine and tracker -- absent a court order, a spokesman said Tuesday.

Eircom is aware of copyright infringement issues but will not block The Pirate Bay unless major record labels can obtain a court order requiring it and other ISPs (Internet service providers) to do so, the spokesman said.

Eircom recently avoided a trial with record labels EMI, Sony, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group. The labels took Eircom to court to try to force the ISP to install traffic-monitoring equipment that would have examined content of its subscribers in an attempt to clamp down on illegal file sharing.

After eight days in court in January, Eircom opted to settle with the labels. Eircom said it would not install content monitoring equipment but instead agree to investigate subscribers suspected of file sharing and disconnect them if their activity continued, the spokesman said.

Content monitoring is "not our business," the spokesman said. "We have no interest in it."

Eircom will accept IP (Internet Protocol) addresses and other information supplied by companies working for record labels that track illegally traded content, the spokesman said. However, Eircom will not turn over subscriber information to record labels.

The details of the agreement with the record labels are still being worked out, such as the level of proof Eircom would find acceptable in order to justify disconnecting a subscriber. Implementation of a warning and disconnection system is a couple of months away, he said.

Eircom's terms and conditions for its subscribers will not change, as the ISP has always had the right to cut off customers engaged in illegal activity, he said.

The situation in Ireland mirrors other efforts the entertainment industry has undertaken to try and shut down The Pirate Bay, which is one of the most popular sites to obtain torrents, or small information files, that coordinate the download of material via the BitTorrent protocol.

In December, a Danish court upheld a ruling that required the ISP Tele2 to block The Pirate Bay, in a case that was initiated by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI). Tele2 was considering appealing the ruling.

The Pirate Bay is having its own troubles in Sweden. Four men are standing trial this week on a charge of aiding with making material available that is under copyright. They could face prison, and the Motion Picture Association and IFPI are seeking around US$12.5 million in combined damages.

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