Business News Legal Top Stories

Could anti-piracy measures be sneaked through in Ireland just before general election?

By | Published on Thursday 24 February 2011


With Irish voters due to go to the polls on Friday, most likely to kick out their current government, tech news website has reported that the country’s outgoing executive is trying to speed through a statutory instrument which would alter copyright law to put more onus on internet service providers to assist in the fight against online piracy.

As previously reported, in Ireland the country’s largest ISP Eircom is already operating a three-strikes style system of sending warning letters to file-sharers, threatening a reduction or suspension of service if said file-sharers don’t stop accessing or distributing unlicensed content. But the net firm launched that system voluntarily as part of a wider legal settlement between the Irish record labels and the tel co.

As part of the same settlement, the Irish Recorded Music Association agreed to pressure other ISPs to follow suit. But when they did, one of them, UPC, went to court to get clarification that under current Irish copyright law they were in no way obliged to do so. And an Irish judge duly complied last October.

Forcing other Irish ISPs to launch a three-strikes system, or something similar, will therefore require a change in the law. And it is thought that it is that change that will be made by the statutory instrument currently being drafted by the country’s Department Of Enterprise Trade & Innovation and the Department Of Communications.

The instrument would be secondary legislation and would therefore not have to go to the country’s parliament, which is just as well because it’s not currently in residence, what with the election and all. With that in mind, it is not entirely clear how far the instrument will be able to go in forcing ISPs to help with tackling piracy, ie how far Minister For Enterprise, Trade & Innovation Mary Hanafin, who will sign the instrument, can go without consulting parliament.

However, Eircom’s rivals are likely to object to any new obligations being put on them, while pro-file-sharing groups will surely criticise the slightly sneaky pushing through of these changes without parliamentary scrutiny in a week when everyone’s attention is on the general election.