It has been over a year since Eircom, prompted by Irish Recorded Music Association’s (IRMA) court proceedings, announced they were to implement a “three strikes and you’re out” rule designed to stop internet access to those who download music illegally. Last Friday, a High Court decision, which clarified that the rule adhered to data protection legislation, has now allowed that plan to become a reality.
Under the “three strikes” rule, IRMA (which represents Warner Music, EMI, Universal Music and Sony Music) is allowed to pass IP addresses to Eircom so the Internet Service Provider can warn the customer up to three times to desist illegal downloading before an ultimate internet disconnection.
This ruling paves the way for IRMA to place pressure on other ISPs to follow suit. The High Court judge noted that the “three strikes” protocol will not lead to criminal proceedings or court sentencing and that the rule itself is lawful. It’s unclear at present, whether an accused downloader will be able to challenge the rule.
The fight over copyright is not just happening here. In Britain, the Digital Economy Act was recently brought in legislation. The British equivalent of IRMA, the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) pushed for the law which potentially allows internet connections to be cut off, websites to be blocked (like Eircom’s blocking of The Pirate Bay for example), and copyright holders to sue illegal downloaders.
No doubt the record labels, their representatives, some of their artists and the entertainment industry are happy that they’ve managed to make this happen. For the ordinary Joe and Jane, along with yet-to-be established artists, it’s scary and uncharted stuff. On the upside, the chance of being sued for damages in Ireland is reduced but at the cost of potential censorship of websites and users.
Now that these internet cut off actions are lawful where next? Let’s hope no-one listens to this country’s biggest loudmouth rocker, Bono who in a New York Times editorial recently, deduced that technologies like the national firewall used to suppress Chinese internet users could be used to track everyone’s movement’s online. Or worse, the American equivalent of IRMA (RIAA) which wishes for us all to install spyware that identifies and deletes infringing material on our computers. Sounds outlandish but you can read more about it here.