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ShareUPDATE: Irish ISP stands up to music firms

Back in May we discussed how Eircom, Ireland’s largest ISP, had been forced into agreeing to implement a 3 strikes policy to tackle illegal copyright infringement following legal action by the IRMA (Irish Recorded Music Association). At the time we were concerned that such a ruling would mean other Irish ISPs would soon be forced to follow suit. However news this week suggests the contrary.

Darren Farnden, Head of Marketing

Darren Farnden, Head of Marketing

UPC, Ireland’s second largest ISP, has won its own battle against four major record companies, namely Warner Music, Universal Music, Sony BMG and EMI Records. The High Court in Dublin ruled “there was no precedent in Irish law to force ISPs to identify and disconnect people accused of illegally downloading copyrighted files” meaning UPC cannot be forced to take part in the system.

The current three strikes policy implemented by Eircom consists of an informal warning at the first stage, a stern warning letter at the second and then disconnection form the Internet for 7 days at the third stage. If the user persists then disconnection for one year may be applied.

However, in his ruling, Mr Justice Peter Charleton condemned piracy stating: “This not only undermines the [record companies’] 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.”

Unsurprisingly, this week’s ruling could have considerable impact on Eircom which introduced the three strikes system when it settled with the IRMA out of court. With confirmation of no legal standing this could be significantly renegotiated and Eircom may decide to take its chances through the courts after all.

As we have repeatedly stated, we do not in any way condone illegal file sharing and agree with the music industry that the issue needs to be tackled. However, we do not believe that termination of service and disconnection from the Internet is the appropriate way to do this or a proportionate punishment. We also have ongoing concerns over the way in which alleged infringers are identified – by IP address – as they can be easily spoofed and hacked. Yet despite ISPs from across the globe arguing these points, the respective governments seem insistent on implementing such policies to satisfy the complaints made by the music and entertainment industries.

Worryingly though this momentous win for ISPs may not stand for long, as the court case has highlighted the fact that Irish law does not currently comply with European law leading to an obvious expectation for the Government to introduce new legislation over the forthcoming months. Once implemented this may see this week’s ruling overturned and UPC forced to comply once again. At least they bought themselves some time, made their point and brought the issue into the limelight for further discussion once more.

Have your say!

What are your thoughts on tackling illegal file sharing? Do you think the implementation of a three strikes style policy is acceptable or do you think it is a disproportionate punishment? Do you think ISPs should be forced to comply or do you think the music industry have got it wrong? Let us know your thoughts by leaving us a comment below.

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