Irish RIAA Takes ISPs To Court To Force 3 Strikes

Earlier this year Ireland's RIAA, IRMA, and the country's largest ISP, Eircom, reached private agreement to implement 3 strikes and disconnections for alleged pirates. At concerns that this would place Eircom at a competitive disadvantage, part of the deal would see IRMA go after Ireland's other ISPs too. IRMA kept their promise.

Last year EMI, Sony, Universal and Warner commenced legal proceedings against Eircom, Ireland’s largest ISP. The four labels control 90% of Ireland’s music market and citing huge losses to piracy, decided to force Eircom to do something about illicit file-sharing. They demanded that the ISP should introduce filtering technology to stop it, but the ISP refused and soon found itself in court.

After initially telling everyone how it would never cave in to the labels, Eircom quickly changed its tune. A few days into the court case, suddenly there was a “world-first” agreement between the labels and the ISP.

Eircom had entered into an entirely voluntary agreement with the labels, where they would simply accuse alleged copyright infringers (via DtecNet, the RIAA and BPI anti-piracy partner), and on the third accusation the ISP would disconnect that subscriber on a Terms of Service violation.

Although it hasn’t been put into place yet due to “ongoing technical discussions concerning implementation,” this deal does seem very cosy.

And it gets cosier still. As part of the agreement with Eircom, the Big Four agreed that they would go after other ISPs to force them to agree to the same terms as Eircom did, so the company “would not be at a competitive disadvantage.”

So who would be next on the hit-list?

According to a report in the Irish Times, that honor has been bestowed on Ireland’s second-largest telco BT Ireland, and the country’s largest cable operator UPC Ireland.

On Tuesday, two sets of legal proceedings were issued at the High Court by “EMI Records (Ireland) Limited and others”, one against BT Communications Ireland and another against UPC Communications Ireland. IRMA, Ireland’s equivalent to the RIAA said it targeted these ISPs since their customers share the most music.

While a spokesman for BT said he couldn’t comment at this stage, a spokeswoman for UPC said their company position hasn’t changed. It will not enter into an agreement with the record labels that goes further than existing legislation – i.e no voluntary 3 strikes.

“There is no basis under Irish law requiring ISPs to control, access or block the Internet content its users download. In addition, the rights-holders’ proposal gives rise to serious concerns for data privacy and consumer contract law,” she said adding: “UPC intends to vigorously defend its position in court.”

Eircom took that position too, but look where they ended up – in the lap of the Big Four. Time will tell if UPC can maintain its strength against determined opposition.

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