Today, Eircom has been outlining details of a new service it will offer to its customer base. The Irish ISP will offer a new product called MusicHub which will allow subscribers to stream music from the big labels including Universal Music, Sony, EMI, Warner Music and Merlin.
According to Eircom, MusicHub will provide subscriber access to unlimited streaming of all tracks in the above labels’ catalogs, with no restrictions and with no advertising.
If MusicHub users would like to download songs they can do that too. Monthly packages will start at 15 tracks for €5.99 up to 40 tracks for €12.99.
While the MusicHub deal is the product of cooperation between Eircom and the music industry, it is born out of conflict. In February 2009, IRMA – representing EMI, Sony, Universal and Warner – reached an 11th hour out of court settlement with Eircom on the controversial issue of illicit file-sharing.
The implementation of the agreement was held up over legal argument, but earlier this year the High Court in Dublin gave it the green light. The deal would see Eircom introduce a graduated response system for dealing with errant subscribers so now, along with today’s MusicHub carrot, comes the 3 strikes stick.
“Eircom is proceeding with implementation of the protocol which could result in the suspension and ultimately disconnection of broadband service for those customers who deliberately and persistently infringe copyright,” the company said today in a statement.
As expected, Eircom will send out warnings to subscribers suspected of illicit file-sharing in the first instance to “encourage them to change their behaviour”, then it intends to get tough.
“If a customer persists with the illegal activity it may result in a seven day suspension or yearlong disconnection of their broadband service,” the company warns.
A seven day suspension will be triggered when the music industry monitors a user sharing illicit files for the third time. Any further notice will activate the 12 month disconnection.
Eircom notes that the scheme has been operating on a trial basis since June this year and the number of notifications being processed have now reached 1,000 per month.
In stark contrast to its earlier neutral position (on which IRMA took the ISP to court), Eircom now says it has a responsibility to deal with the copyright infringements of its customers on behalf of the music industry.
“The company believes that it has a duty to ensure that the rights of artists and the laws of the state, including copyright law, are upheld, and to take action when illegal activity is brought to our attention,” it notes.
Nevertheless, Eircom adds that “our obligations to our customers remain paramount, and the primacy of their rights, in particular their rights to privacy, are reflected in the phased structure of the protocol, and in the Eircom MusicHub service launched today. Eircom is of the view that these obligations are part of a role that all responsible companies must serve.”
To this end, Eircom is guaranteeing that it will never hand subscribers’ personal details to the music industry and will never monitor their online activities. They will, however, take the word of the music industry and their monitors on face value and presume it is accurate as a matter of course.
Other ISPs in Ireland, such as UPC, have refused to play ball. In a recent court case it was decided that a 3 strikes regime could not be forced on an Internet service provider.
However, as detailed in our earlier report, the government is appealing for the music industry and ISPs to get together to try and reach some sort of compromise. According to its announcement today, Eircom will position itself as some kind of broker in the negotiations.
“Today Eircom confirmed that it will continue to play a leadership role with the music industry, other ISPs, and key stakeholders including Government to find a long term sustainable solution that addresses the issues of illegal file sharing while minimising the impact on customers.”
What remains to be seen now is how the ISP market pans out. Will customers stop pirating and switch to Eircom to gain access to the MusicHub service, or will they stay with the likes of UPC in order to carry on pirating without worry of disconnections? Will the disconnections at Eircom have the desired effect, or will customers simply switch to another ISP? The next few months should prove very interesting.