The Commercial Court has ordered nine internet service providers (ISPs) to block access to three websites which facilitate the illegal streaming of copyrighted TV shows and movies.

The move followed an application by six well known film studios who claimed the three sites were facilitating piracy on an "industrial scale".

The nine ISPs are Eircom trading as Eir, Sky Ireland, Vodafone Ireland, Virgin Media Ireland, two Three Ireland companies, Digiweb, Imagine Telecommunications and Magnet Networks.

Having considered the matter, Mr Justice Brian Cregan granted the order being sought by the six TV and film studios against the ISPs.

The content producers that were seeking the blocking order were Warner Bros. Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, Disney, Universal Studios and Sony/Columbia Pictures.

Mr Justice Cregan said he was satisfied that the case satisfied the criteria laid down by the courts in previous cases for such a blocking order to be granted.

He said it was clear there had been infringement of copyright, that it would not result in the lawful use of the internet being interfered with and the order was proportionate to the damage being caused.

He said the courts were becoming increasing familiar with such blocking cases.

He also ordered that there be no cap on the number of notifications of new domain names and IP addresses that Eir had to block each month.

He said there was no evidence presented about the possible number of future notifications that would be made and the court should not engage in speculation.

Earlier, the court heard that in one month last year alone, 3.3 million visits were made from Ireland to the websites which provide aggregated links to illegal streams of copyrighted content.

The court also heard that none of the ISPs were objecting to the order, although Eir has a number of concerns around capping the number of domain names to be blocked and the costs of doing so.

Jonathan Newman SC for the studios said the 2000 Copyright Act prohibits copyright works from being made available via their internet to the public so that they can access them at a time of their choosing.

But he said there is clear evidence that three websites in this case, movie4k.to, primewire.ag and onwatchseries.to, are all intervening to make film and TV content available to new audiences without the consent of the studios who own them.

He told Mr Justice Cregan that the websites concerned aggregate links to films and TV shows, catalogue them, assist users and actively promote them.

Mr Newman said this was taking place on an "industrial scale" and in a "very substantial manner".

He added that the studios are responsible for the bulk of the movie market, holding 81% in 2015.

A random sample of 250 commercially available copyrighted TV shows and films found all were available on each of the websites, he said.

He said an affidavit submitted to the court showed onwatchseries.to received 1.9 million individual visits from people in Ireland in October 2016 alone, with 1.26 million visits to primewire.ag and 217,000 visits to movie4k.to during the same month.

It was very difficult to calculate the level of loss to the plaintiffs, he said, but a 2015 Grant Thornton report estimated that in 2015 it cost 500 Irish jobs and €320m in revenue.

Streaming piracy causing 'substantial damage'

He said an affidavit filed by Andrew Lowe, a director of the Element Group of companies, showed this type of streaming piracy was causing very substantial damage not only to the movie studios but also to the entire distribution system here.

Mr Newman said a report from Incopro Ltd found that when a similar block was implemented in the UK there was a two thirds drop in traffic to the sites concerned.

He said the three sites were already subject to blocks in a number of EU jurisdictions.

The sites concerned do not disclose their physical locations or the identity of their operations.

He said in this case warning letters had been sent to the websites through the only means available, but no response had been received.

The criteria for allowing such an order, he said, had been set out by the courts in case law and includes being satisfied a copyright infringement had taken place, that it would not interfere with any lawful use of the internet and it was proportional.

Mr Newman argued that in this case, all the criteria had been met.

He also outlined case law supporting the argument that the ISPs should be made to cover the costs of implementing such an order.

Mr Newman said Eir wanted a cap of an additional 50 domain names to be blocked each month as part of the order.

But he argued that the order could not be effective or dissuasive if such a cap were in place as the website operators were frequently changing their IP addresses in a game of cat and mouse with the authorities.

The court heard that there are currently 60 different domain names or IP addresses which would have to be blocked right away if the order were granted.

Counsel for Eir told the court it would definitely cover the cost of those 60 initial domain and IP addresses to be blocked and up to 50 a month thereafter.

But he said it was seeking a cap of 50 domain names a month because blocking them was a manual process which required resources.

He said if the number of sites were to proliferate then Eir would have to add more manual resources or build an automated system at an estimated cost of €50,000.

The courts have already dealt with a number of similar cases in the past.

In 2009 Eircom was ordered to block access to Pirate Bay, while six ISPs also had to block the same website following an action in 2013.

The same year a number of ISPs were also forced to stop users from logging into the KAT torrent site.