Eircom, IRMA & Blackout Ireland

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Ok, so there are lots of links in this post, because of how active this topic is at the moment. To get a good view of what’s been happening, I think all are well worth a read.

Over the last few weeks there have been moves by IRMA (Irish Recorded Music Association) to have certain sites on the Internet blocked by ISPs (Internet Service Providers), starting with Eircom. Letters have also been sent to Irish ISPs (as reported by Blacknight, who got a letter but isn’t an ISP). There’s an article on the Register about the content of the letter.  The first I saw of this being reported was in a front page story in the Sunday Business Post by Adrian Weckler.  Adrian puts it simply on his own site:

Irma is drawing up a list of websites it doesn’t like and Eircom will block them to all of its customers. And Irma is demanding that other ISPs do likewise, on pain of being sued. [as quoted by Digital Rights Ireland today]

It is a little disturbing that a lobby group representing commercial interests have the power to censor, if all ISPs comply, the Internet usage of an entire country.  IRMA will still need to go to court to get an order to block a site, and I wonder what threshold of copyright infringement makes it alright for a site to be censored? If one person views copyrighted material on a site, does this mean the site is no longer accessible to an entire country? Or 10 people?

Another question is, as Damien points out, what if a copyrighted news article is reproduced on a site such as Boards.ie, does this mean that it too will be added to the blacklist? A thread on the Enterprise Ireland Mailing list recently discussed a letter received by a business being pursued for €1200 by Getty Images for use of an unlicensed image on a website. In the future, will such cases of copyright infringement be resolved by having access to the website blocked to all Irish people? Were businesses within the country to feel the effects of this decision, there may be a different attitude to the path to copyright protection through mass censorship currently being walked.

BlackOut Ireland

There is a campaign being run by BlackOut Ireland in protest at these actions. There  are more details about what can be done to protest these decisions in their blog.  You will find them on Twitter at twitter.com/blackoutIreland ; you can track other related activity on Twitter by searching for #blackoutirl. Digital Rights Ireland also suggest sending a letter to Eamon Ryan, and they good enough to provide contact details for him at the end of their post.

All this comes in addition to the agreement that after 3 allegations of copyright infringement through illegal file-sharing, a user’s Internet connection can be disconnected. Again, Digital Rights Ireland have details of why they see this as a bad deal for users.

In response to  similar actions taken by the government in New Zealand, there were widespread protests to the enacting of a law that:

…calls for internet disconnection based on accusations of copyright infringement without a trial and without any evidence held up to court scrutiny. This is due to come into effect on February 28th. [source].

The situation in New Zeland was also covered in a This Week in Tech podcast.

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