Earlier this year Ireland’s RIAA, IRMA, and the country’s largest ISP, Eircom, reached a private agreement to implement 3 strikes for alleged pirates.
Eircom felt this agreement would put it at a competitive disadvantage, so part of the deal would see IRMA go after Ireland’s other major ISPs too. IRMA kept that promise by going after two other ISPs – BT Communications Ireland and UPC Communications Ireland. IRMA said it targeted these ISPs since their customers share the most music.
Unlike the weak Eircom, UPC and BT say they will not go over and above their obligations under the law and have refused to capitulate to the music industry monopoly – IRMA controls 90% of recorded music in Ireland.
So next month sees Eircom become the anti-piracy partner of IRMA. It will begin acting on the inspired decision to punish its own customers, based upon allegations of copyright infringement from the music industry. On an initial allegation, Eircom’s customers will receive a warning on their bill. On a second, they will find that their connection has been slowed “to a snail’s pace” and on a third, its Internet blackout time.
All this without the need for a court either – President Sarkozy would give his right arm for this kind of unconstitutional power.
So why exactly did Eircom get into bed with IRMA when the European E-Commerce Directive clearly states that ISPs are not responsible for the data they carry?
According to some – surprise, surprise – it’s all about money. While Eircom could’ve gone through with its defense in the court case against IRMA, these things take time and can drag on for months or even years. This is the last thing Eircom needs in its current position.
The ISP is at least $5.6 billion in debt, has had five owners in the last 10 years and is currently the subject of yet another takeover bid by Singapore Technologies Telemedia, a unit of Singapore state investor Temasek Holdings.
Problematic outstanding litigation isn’t particularly attractive to prospective buyers, so the decision to settle with IRMA could have been viewed as a sensible one by Eircom, even at the risk of losing some customers.
However, according to Eircom spokesman Paul Bradley, there has been “no measurable loss” of customers moving to Ireland’s other ISPs but of course, Eircom hasn’t disconnected anyone yet. Rest assured when they do, the number moving to other ISPs will be almost identical to the numbers they disconnect.
Giving money to a company that rates your business as secondary to the needs of someone else’s business, copyright infringement or not, seems like a good situation to avoid.