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Companies that spend vast sums on developing products have every right to feel aggrieved when they are subjected to wholesale internet piracy. The High Court made that point in coming to the aid of video gaming giant Nintendo.
Since the launch of its Switch console in 2017, Nintendo has sold almost 5.3 million units to UK consumers, generating over £1 billion in sales. Switch games can only legitimately be obtained on physical game cards or via Nintendo's official online shop. The availability of pirated copies of games like Super Mario Odyssey and Animal Crossing have, however, proved a thorn in the company's side.
Nintendo launched proceedings against six major UK broadband and mobile internet service providers (ISPs), seeking orders requiring them to block, or attempt to block, public access to two target websites. The ISPs did not oppose the application and had agreed the terms of a proposed injunction.
Ruling on the matter, the Court noted that the target websites provide lists of pirated games and links to other sites from which they can be downloaded. They make prominent use of Nintendo trade marks in a manner apparently designed to create the impression that the games are genuine. Their operators were clearly engaged in commercial-scale piracy with a view to profit from advertising.
The target websites were believed to be under common management and control but Nintendo's extensive efforts to identify their operators had been in vain. It was unlikely that they were engaged in any legitimate trade and, given that children make up a large part of Nintendo's market, the company was particularly troubled by evidence that the download process displays explicit adult content.
Granting the injunction sought, the Court noted that the public has no legitimate interest in being informed about, or gaining access to, websites whose whole purpose is to enable downloading of pirated material. The target websites were engaged in facilitating the infringement of Nintendo's copyright and trade marks and the order was both proportionate and necessary to prevent, or at least reduce, the substantial damage to the company's trade. The order would have a dissuasive effect on piracy and would not be difficult for the ISPs to implement.