ISPs enforcing copyright law, part deux.

Today,  IRMA lost a court case against UPC, which was aimed at putting UPC under similar pressure that Eircom apparently crumbled under. I believe this is an important victory for ISPs, who should not have to shoulder the cost for what their subscribers choose to do. I believe that copyright owners should pursue copyright infringement directly through the court system.

Eircom’s comment on the outcome:

A spokesperson for Eircom has said the internet service provider will be considering its position in light of today’s ruling.

I wonder what will happen next. Personally I would like to see Eircom back out of their “trial” they agreed with IRMA, as soon as possible. They should be far more aggressive in future in fighting any such deals. In particular

It is interesting to wonder then why Eircom chose to make a deal with IRMA in the first place. Their legal team surely would have thought that going to court would not mean certain loss given the outcome of UPC’s case. I simply don’t understand this deal from a business perspective, they are angering customers (who will likely move to ISPs showing more spine) and they are losing money by having to process these alleged file sharers on IRMA’s behalf.

In my research for this post I tried visiting the Pirate Bay, which is currently blocked by Eircom (as per a court order). Again, interesting that the other ISPs managed to avoid this. From some Googling I found some references to an ongoing court case, but from what I could find it would appear that Eircom are the only Irish ISP currently blocking the pirate bay.

In what was likely a burecractical oversight, the “warning page” that access to thepiratebay sends you to from an Eircom account includes the following text:

eircom would like to reassure customers that:

  • eircom will not monitor customer’s activities at any stage, nor will it place any monitoring equipment or software on its network in order to facilitate this block.
  • eircom will not provide personal details or any information relating to customers to any third party, including the record companies.

This information is clearly out of date.

In any case, this situation worries me even more than the IRMA deal. Eircom is entitled to revoke service from customers who are violating the terms of their agreement. Perhaps there is some business case, such as advertising deals or some other reason why Eircom has chosen to act the sheep in that relationship. But the Pirate Bay blocking is not a private agreement between two parties, it is a court order.

However, the censorship of the Pirate Bay is nothing to do with that deal, it stems from a court order. Merely visiting the Pirate Bay website is not an act of copyright infringement, no more than glancing inside a car to see if the key was left in the ignition is car theft. They might be highly suspicious actions, but I don’t believe in punishing thought crime.

While the Pirate Bay might have relatively minuscule legal content and use, I believe that censoring all access to it is a dangerous precedent to set (despite not strictly being legal precedent). Censorship, in my opinion, a massive violation of the freedoms of adults in any nation. It should be reserved for the most special cases, and only where no other way can be found to deal with the problem. This grave tool should not be even available here, the recording industry has simply not exhausted other avenues of dealing with the problem, despite what they might say.

One need look to the kind of countries in which Internet censorship has become normal practise to see the danger of such a slippery slope. There are valuable sites that feature questionable content, Wikileaks would be a perfect example. I wouldn’t like to think that companies and organisations start thinking that they can apply for court orders to censor material through ISPs.

The recording industry is not special, if their content is being pirated then they should do what any other group would have to do, take the individuals involved to court.

Links & Glossary:


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