Music Industry Orders BitTorrent Blackout

Throughout Europe, music industry lobbyists have tried to convince ISPs to block file-sharing sites, and not without success. The Irish ISP Eircom is the first to cave in to the pressure of the music industry, and without any argument will block all file-sharing related websites - starting with The Pirate Bay.

Last month, Eircom announced that at the behest of the music industry it will disconnect customers who are allegedly sharing copyrighted material. Initially the ISP planned to stand up for its customers in court. However, it didn’t have the courage of its convictions and the case was aborted. Capitulating to the music industry’s demands, Eircom agreed to start disconnecting those accused of illicit file-sharing.

But that wasn’t enough. Now the industry wants more and is ordering Eircom to block access to any sites it wants blocked. And it doesn’t end there.

Smelling blood, the music industry is ratcheting up the pressure and they are now demanding that all ISPs censor the Internet by blocking access to all file-sharing related websites (more info and the full letter here).

And the worrying news is it’s already a partially done deal. The Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA) has already convinced Eircom to comply, and is warning the other Internet providers in Ireland that they should follow suit, or face legal action.

The first and primary target is The Pirate Bay. This comes as no surprise of course, as the music industry’s IFPI has already succeeded in blocking the largest BitTorrent tracker in Denmark, after which they attempted to do the same in Norway and Italy. In Italy the Internet providers initially complied, but this decision was later overturned in court.

As for the next targets for censorship – for which a list is currently being drawn up by Irma – this is how the industry’s scheme will work. Under the terms of an agreement between Eircom and Irma, Eircom will not oppose any court application, meaning that orders requesting the blockage of a particular website will be automatically granted. A spokesman for Eircom confirmed that Eircom ‘‘will not oppose any application [Irma] may make seeking the blocking of access from their network’’ to ‘blacklisted’ websites.

The other Irish ISPs are now facing legal action from the music industry if they don’t give in to IRMA’s demands within seven days. The ISPs are baffled by the aggressive approach by the music industry, and are calling for protection to prevent worse.

“We don’t support illegal activity on our network but this is an unprecedented agreement,” said Alex French of Ireland’s leading Wi-Fi service Bitbuzz. “Is the music industry planning to become Ireland’s de facto internet censor?”

So it seems. However, Eircom could be digging an even deeper hole for itself. By agreeing to censor the Internet at the behest of not the police, but a private and commercially driven organization, it has effectively dumped its own common carrier protection.

Furthermore, The Pirate Bay (or any other sites Ericom intend to block) have never been deemed illegal in Ireland. This has to be seen as a very worrying development. So, open the floodgates, everyone is going to want sites blocked soon and if you’ve got enough cash, it’s on the cards with Eircom. At the very least, let’s hope Eircom is going to make its list of banned sites public, along with their reasons for blocking each and every site, properly referenced under the law.

And let’s hope the rest of Ireland’s ISPs stand up for themselves.

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