Four major record companies have brought a High Court action to compel broadband service provider, Eircom, to prevent its networks being used for the illegal downloading of music.
The case is being taken against Eircom as it is the largest broadband internet service provider in the State.
It is the first case to be aimed at the service provider rather than at individual illegal downloaders.
The record companies are EMI records (Ireland) Ltd, Sony BMG Music Entertainment (Ireland) Ltd, Universal Music (Ireland) Ltd and Warner Music (Ireland) Ltd.
They say latest figures indicate that 20 billion music files were illegally downloaded worldwide last year and for every single legal download there are 20 illegal ones.
In a sworn document to support the case, Willie Kavanagh, managing director of EMI Ireland and chairman of the Irish Recorded Music Association, said because of this illegal downloading and other factors, the Irish music industry was experiencing a dramatic and accelerating decline in income.
He said the Irish market for sound recordings was suffering a decline in sales from €146m in 2001 to €102m last year - a drop of 30%.
He said the record companies believed the greater availability of broadband would lead to a further escalation in the volume of unlawful distribution of recordings.
EMI and the other companies are challenging Eircom's refusal to use filtering technology or other measures to voluntarily block or filter material from its network that is being used to download music in violation of copyright and licensing rights.
The companies say certain specialised software - such as that provided by the US-based Audible Magic Corporation - can block specified recordings from being shared.
Last October Eircom told the companies it was not in a position to run the Audible Magic software on its servers.
Eircom's solicitors also told the companies that it was not on notice of specific illegal activity that infringed the companies’ rights and it had no legal obligation to monitor traffic on its network.
However, Mr Kavanagh said Eircom was well aware its facilities were being used to violate the property rights of record companies on a grand scale.
He said legal actions brought against individuals with a high number of illegal files on their computers at specific times were very costly and time consuming.
He said illegal downloaders come from all walks of life and the reality for many young people was that they had never known a position where they actually have had to pay for sound recordings.
Mr Justice Peter Kelly admitted the proceedings into the Commercial Court list this morning.