According to reports, a Portuguese court has granted an injunction prohibiting Telegram, a cloud-based instant messaging network, from blocking access to over a dozen piracy-related channels that together have millions of subscribers.

According to the source, the Portuguese court was hearing objections submitted by Visapress, a trade organization representing many newspaper and magazine publishers, and the Portuguese film industry association, GEDIPE. The organizations have expressed dissatisfaction that around 17 channels are publicly accessible through the Telegram platform. These channels together have over 10 million subscribers who share a diverse selection of films, television series, newspapers, magazines, and other intellectual property.

Although the instant messaging platform allows users to construct custom channels via which they may communicate with all their subscribers. However, reports indicate that this functionality, paired with Telegram’s capacity to handle huge files, has resulted in widespread exploitation by pirates to transmit pirated material. Because some channels have over a million subscribers from all over the globe, this form of sharing activity cannot be classified as personal. As a result, the rights holders claim that Telegram should immediately disable the channels.

After considering all considerations, the Portuguese court concluded that it was safe to give a blocking order. While the court appreciates the value of free speech as a guiding principle for the internet, it believes this injunction is necessary and reasonable to avert future annoyance or disorder.

While the court acknowledged that ordering a block is not ideal, it is preferable to take no action at all. While commenting about the conclusion of the court proceedings, Carlos Eugénio, Executive Director of Visapress, praised the court ruling as a significant win that would go a long way toward combating online piracy, albeit he recognized that the blocking mechanisms might be evaded.

Eugénio said, “Changing the names of groups and chats is a straightforward method for their administrators to circumvent the court ruling, but Telegram is aware of this.” This choice, in my view, requires them to delete or disable access to these groups and chat rooms.”

Interestingly, the court order had to be made in the absence of Telegram, despite the local embassy’s repeated efforts to reach them through their Dubai address. While Telegram did not have the opportunity to defend itself in court, Eugénio is hopeful that Telegram will get the message and eventually comply with the Portuguese court’s demands or risk being barred totally.

Telegram is a messaging app that has long been considered a competitor to WhatsApp; Telegram just passed the 1 billion mark in play store installs. Telegram and Whatsapp will always be competitors, and consumers will always have a preferred app. In 2018, a Russian court approved the blocking of Telegram after it was accused of posing a danger to the Russian government’s efforts to exert control over internet communications. After the corporation refused to decrypt encrypted conversations, a Russian court launched legal steps to restrict the Telegram app. The move to stop Telegram came after the company missed an April 4 deadline to give encryption keys to Russia’s national security authorities.