Disappointed Irish record labels are contemplating a court ruling's possible impact upon their attempts to force Internet Service Providers to tackle unauthorised downloading/file-sharing.

In a ruling today in the Commercial division of the High Court in Dublin, Justice Peter Charleton said Irish law does not currently allow rights-holders to force ISPs to identify and potentially disconnect persistent offenders.

In a case co-ordinated by IFPI-affiliate the Irish Recorded Music Association, EMI, Universal Music, Sony Music and Warner Music IRMA had sought an injunction forcing UPC to act to remove copyright-infringing material from its network.

IRMA had previously taken similar action against leading ISP Eircom, resulting in a graduated-response deal which was ruled legal by Justice Charleton in April.

In a new judgement today, however, Justice Charleton ruled against granting the injunction, saying that the "legislative response laid down in our country has made no proper provision for the blocking, diverting or interrupting of internet communications intent on breaching copyright."

Speaking after the judgement today, IRMA chairman Willie Kavanagh said: "We are extremely disappointed that the High Court today has effectively determined that the Irish State has failed to protect the constitutional rights of copyright holders, by failing to implement EU Copyright Directives correctly."

Charleton did concede the merits of the labels' case and warned that the inadequacies of current legislation wording means Ireland is not in line with European law. Piracy, he said "not only undermines [labels'] business but ruins the ability of a generation of creative people in Ireland, and elsewhere, to establish a viable living. It is destructive of an important native industry."

The labels/IRMA had originally sought an injunction against UPC in June 2009. In a statement today, IRMA director general Dick Doyle said: "The High Court has acknowledged that Irish artists, composers and recording companies are sustaining huge losses and internet providers are profiting from the wholesale theft of music."

He added: "The judge made it very clear that an injunction would be morally justified, but that the Irish legislature had failed in its obligation to confer on the courts the right to grant such injunctions unlike other EU states."

IRMA will now seek "look to the Irish Government to fully vindicate the constitutional rights of Copyright holders," said Doyle, "and we reserve the right to seek compensation for the past and continuing losses from the State."

In a statement, UPC said it "will continue to co-operate with rights holders where they have obtained the necessary court orders for alleged copyright infringements."

The statement added that its defence had focused on "the mere conduit principle," which "provides that an internet service provider cannot be held liable for content transmitted across its network."

Requests for comment from Eircom on the implications of the ruling on its own agreement with IRMA have not yet been answered. The agreement also required IRMA to negotiate similar deals with other ISPs so Eircom would not be commercially disadvantaged.

In May, IFPI general counsel Jo Oliver had hailed the agreement as a model that "we've been trying to get ISPs all around the world to implement."