Digital Top Stories

Privacy concerns over Irish three-strikes dismissed by judge

By | Published on Monday 19 April 2010

A judge in Ireland has given the all clear for plans to introduce a three-strikes system to combat illegal file-sharing in the country, though at the moment the ruling will only affect one ISP, albeit the biggest.

As previously reported, Irish tel-co Eircom agreed to introduce a so called ‘graduated response’ system to combat piracy on its network sometime ago, as part of an out-of-court settlement to a wider legal action taken by the Irish record industry. That will mean the ISP sending out warning letters to any customers the record labels reckon are illegally accessing or sharing music online. Customers who ignore warnings could have their net connections suspended or disconnected.

However, Eircom’s three-strikes system is yet to go live, mainly because the country’s Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawke raised concerns that the system proposed by the Irish Recorded Music Association and Eircom contravened data protection rules.

Because the Irish three-strikes system was created through voluntary agreement and not a change in copyright law, any contravened data protection rules would prevail. But Judge Peter Charleton last week said there were no legitimate data protection concerns relating to three-strikes, and in doing do basically gave judicial support for the anti-piracy system.

According to, the judge said last week: “The right to be identified with and to reasonably exploit one’s own original creative endeavour I regard as a human right. It is completely within the legitimate standing of Eircom to act, and to be seen to act, as a body which upholds the law and Constitution. That is what the Court expects of both individuals and companies”.

He continued: “The internet is only a means of communication. It has not rewritten the legal rules of each nation through which it passes. It is not an amorphous extraterrestrial body with an entitlement to norms that run counter to the fundamental principles of human rights. There is nothing in the criminal or civil law which legalises that which is otherwise illegal simply because the transaction takes place over the internet”.

Welcoming the judicial support for three-strikes, IRMA chief Dick Doyle told reporters: “We are very pleased with this decision today. Resolving this issue has caused six months of disruption to the IRMA/Eircom agreement. We will now proceed immediately to implement the full agreement”.

The ruling does not, however, force other ISPs in Ireland to operate a similar three-strikes system. IRMA has been lobbying the other net firms to follow Eircom’s lead, partly because their original agreement with Eircom said the music association would try to ensure other service providers would also have to operate three-strikes. However, the other net firms, like ISPs in the UK, are resistant to all and any proposals that they should get involved in policing online piracy.

Whether Charleton’s ruling will give IRMA any more sway in forcing three-strikes on the other net firms remains to be seen. Insiders at those other ISPs insisted this weekend the ruling did not affect them in any way.