/ Technology

Irish court rules out disconnecting file sharers

Padlock sitting on music CDs

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judgement agreed that the music companies were being harmed by internet piracy, it found that Ireland’s laws were so out-of-date that it couldn’t enforce cutting off connections.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.


I sort of disagree – Let me explain – I freely copy my CDs, VHSs and DVDs to change format – I freely make playlists of my music for my much used mp3 player – all of which is technically illegal. But I paid for every song or film. I am not prepared to pay TWICE for the same song as I cannot usefully play it on two different formats simultaneously

What I wouldn’t do is loan say a CD to anyone because that is clearly against copyright – and – deprives the copyright holder of a sale – It is very simple.

I sort of half agree and half disagree with the music industry’s stance on illegal file-sharing. Consider the following:

Music, particularly in the UK, has been expensive to purchase, so the music industry has itself been ripping US off for years!

They don’t seem to bat an eyelid on the sale of second-hand music say in a record store or on a market stall as the artists don’t make anything from this, so why not make it legal to share music that’s say, more than a year old after the release date?

The music industry may also have been in decline partly because there’s been such an influx of poor quality artists and manufactured music. That seems to have changed a little in recent years as better artists have emerged seemingly in a fight to combat this type of thing. (Yes, down with this sort of thing!)

The public are fed up at the tactics of some record companies to get their artists to the top of the charts, for example through mass purchase of titles of their own acts.

Very little of the record companies’ profits go to the artists themselves. Artists have to rely largely on sales from live performances and merchandising to earn a decent living.

Very few CDs these days contain information about the bands or even the lyrics to all their songs. Record companies need to re-invent how they market their products if they want to compete against illegal downloads of just music tracks.

And, as Richard has pointed out, record companies want us to pay more to have music in different formats to play on different media. That just stinks of greed on their part.

So, maybe if the record companies cleaned up their own sordid behaviour, many more of us might actually sympathise with them and play ball.

As a musician I want to know why anyone would think it’s OK to steal my work. No ones else works for free. Which? magazine didn’t come free last time I checked my bank account. As for the silly arguments about how little the artists and songwriters themselves make out of recorded work, they’re the only ones that actually rely upon it. Everyone else working for the company, right up to the usual fat cats at the top are on a regular wage, only the creative people rely upon sales for their remuneration. That’s me, that is.

I love the line “Although it doesn’t condone piracy, it didn’t feel it was liable for the actions of its subscribers.” Rubbish. Downloading is worth money to these people, they don’t give a curried **** one way or another about rights and responsibilities.

Finally, about Fat Sam’s complaints about the state of the recording industry at the moment, it’s like that because it’s in crisis. There’s no money for experimenting like there was back in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Oh yes, if the guys at the top would take a cut there’d be a little more money to throw around, but they’re not going to any more than the guys that run the supermarkets are going to, it’s something that, barring a revolution, we have to put up with. It certainly doesn’t justify stealing from me.