Members of the Motion Picture Association (MPA) in Europe have launched legal proceedings in Ireland in a bid to force eight ISPs to block access to three websites suspected of enabling copyright infringement.

The movie studios filed for an injunction in the Commercial Court in Dublin. A preliminary hearing has already been held.

Justice Brian McGovern has served summonses on ISPs Sky, EIR, Vodafone, Virgin Media, Three, Digiweb, Imagine and Magnet Networks, and adjourned the case until 27 February.

The MPA has tasked INCOPRO, a brand and content protection specialist, to investigate infringement of its members’ rights in Ireland.

INCOPRO found that the websites—Primewire, Watchseries and Movie4K—received 1.26 million, 1.93 million and more than 200,000 visits from Ireland-based internet users in October 2016 alone.

Stan McCoy, president and managing director for the Europe, the Middle East and Africa at the MPA, said the legal action in Ireland is designed to tackle piracy and safeguard the future of the movie and TV industries, both domestically and worldwide.

“So much great film and television is made here in Ireland by producers and artists from around the world; it saddens us that some unscrupulous operators still try to profit by stealing it,” McCoy said.

“This is a problem that all members of the global creative community must work together to solve, and the MPA is pleased to support this fight in Ireland.”

Site blocking has been effective in the UK in the past, with previous actions leading to a 75 percent drop in traffic and a 25 percent fall in activity in piracy overall, according to INCOPRO, which reported on the practice in 2014.

Approximately 1,200 sites have been blocked in Europe since 2010 for distributing copyrighted content illegally, according to the MPA.

Blocking ‘should seriously deter’ infringement

Opponents of website blocking have likened it to a game of ‘whack-a-mole’, with sites switching domains to evade ISP blocks.

The Pirate Bay is the most high-profile example of this evasion. The US Trade Representative returned the BitTorrent site to its Special 301 Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets at the end of December due to its persistence.

“The Pirate Bay is of symbolic importance as one of the longest-running and most vocal torrent sites for admittedly illegal downloads of movies, television, music, and other copyrighted content,” the US Trade Representative said.

Its operators have resorted to innovative means to evade takedown, employing its own browser to circumvent court-ordered enforcement in more than 10 countries, as well as using more than a dozen domains hosted in various countries around the world, applying a reverse proxy service, and using a hosting provider in Vietnam.

The Pirate Bay is under threat in Europe, however, with the Court of Justice of the EU’s (CJEU) advocate general delivering an opinion today (9 February) in an ongoing litigation between Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN and two ISPs.

Advocate general Maciej Szpunar recommended to the CJEU that The Pirate Bay, as a peer-to-peer network that indexes infringing content, is engaging in communications to the public under the Copyright Directive because it is aware of that content and doesn’t take action to make inaccessible.

Szpunar also reaffirmed that website blocks are proportional responses to sites such as The Pirate Bay that do not host infringing content but provide access to third parties, as well as effective.

“It is not necessary that intellectual property should be absolutely protected, that is to say, that the proposed measure should result in a complete cessation of copyright infringements,” Szpunar explained. “It is sufficient that it should seriously deter internet users from committing such infringements by making infringement difficult.”

“Given the role of websites such as The Pirate Bay in the operation of peer-to-peer networks, there seems to me to be no question that blocking access to such a site would make it difficult or impossible for most users to find the works made available on such a network and therefore to download them in breach of copyright.”

Simon Baggs, CEO of INCOPRO, which has been tracking the efficacy of site blocking for several years now, said: “When a site is blocked by the main ISPs, usage of that site typically drops by up to 75 percent. Where site blocking is ongoing, there can be overall reductions in piracy and an increase in the use of lawful services that provide online access to content.”

“Given that piracy websites are often based overseas, site blocking is very effective as it uses the internet pipe to prevent the infringement. Orders typically provide a mechanism to update the ISPs when a site changes name or moves to another host server.”

To find out more how INCOPRO can help your brand protect itself in the ever challenging online environment, please contact us.

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