An Irish internet provider has won a file sharing battle against the music industry. It was asked to enforce a policy that could cut its subscribers off. Shouldn’t there be more focus on education, not criminalisation?
So, this returns us to one of our very first Conversations (hasn’t time flown by?). Back in May we reported on Ireland’s largest broadband provider, Eircom, being the first to employ a ‘three strikes and you’re out’ scheme to tackle internet piracy.
Back then I rolled out the pirate metaphors to explain a scheme that would escalate from warning letters to a full-out ban of your internet connection if illegal file sharing was exposed.
It was the Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA) – made up of Warner, Universal, Sony and EMI – pushing this plan to tackle the piracy of their music. Eircom signed up, but IRMA has since been trying to get other providers on board.
UPC wins battle against music industry
Now UPC, another Irish broadband provider, has won a legal battle against IRMA’s demands. This internet provider refused to back down, stressing that although it doesn’t condone piracy, it didn’t feel it was liable for the actions of its subscribers. This escalated to the case being taken to the Irish High Court.
In short, although the judgement agreed that the music companies were being harmed by internet piracy, it found that Ireland’s laws were so out-of-date that it couldn’t enforce cutting off connections. Expect those laws to be changed.
This leaves Eircom in a bit of a sticky situation. Its original agreement with IRMA said it shouldn’t be left at a commercial disadvantage, so the provider could in theory step back from the ‘three strikes’ scheme.
So what’s happening in the UK?
The Digital Economy Act has yet to be implemented by Ofcom, but when it’s finally in place (by around April 2011), it’ll have rules on what this country’s broadband providers should do about illegal file sharing.
The plan is that ISPs will write to let you know that there’s been illegal file-sharing activity on your connection. What happens next has not been confirmed, but it could involve slowing down your internet. There are no plans to cut people off – yet.
We think it’s much fairer to educate and inform about a possible infringement via a letter from the ISP, rather than from the copyright holder’s lawyer. And though we don’t have a real problem with a ‘three strikes’ system in principle, there are issues we’re worried about:
- How reliable is the evidence – how’s it proved that you’ve taken part in illegal file sharing?
- Why should the account holder be held liable if a relative, friend or hacker carried out the illegal activity without your endorsement?
- Is being cut off proportionate to the crime? If you’ve illegally file shared a couple of songs with friends, akin to lending a CD, what would be a proportionate response?
Finally, shouldn’t there be more focus on educating internet users rather than criminalising them? Copyright laws are incredibly complicated – and people should be educated about it before they’re threatened with legal action.