Three Strikes ISP: No Pirates Disconnected in Four Years

One of first ISPs to voluntarily introduce a three-strikes regime for punishing file-sharers has today delivered an intriguing statement. After almost four years of working mainly with the music industry, Ireland's largest ISP Eircom says it hasn't disconnected a single subscriber for Internet piracy.

piratesaintAccording to the music and movie industries, three strikes-style regimes are needed to bring the pirating Internet masses into line. Receive three strikes/complaints (six in the United States) and then some punitive deterrent measure has to kick in.

Legislation has compelled many ISPs to participate in such programs. In 2009, South Korean ISPs became the first in the world to implement a so-called graduated response scheme and 2011’s Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act brought the mechanism to New Zealand. The HADOPI legislation introduced a similar program to the French.

However, not all participation has been forced by law. The United States’ “six-strikes” program was introduced voluntarily last year but by that time the Irish had already gained several years’ experience of a self-imposed regime.

In 2009, Eircom, the country’s largest ISP, prepared its own three-strikes program following a deal with the major recording labels, a package which allowed Eircom to disconnect persistent infringers. So now, four years since its introduction in 2010, how many people has Eircom disconnected? A hundred? One thousand? Five?

According to the ISP – not even one.

“We are continuing to implement the graduated response process,” a spokesman said today. “We haven’t, as yet, disconnected anyone.”

Eircom’s system allows the user two notices of infringement before a third notice triggers a seven-day disconnection. A further notice means disconnection for a year. Considering the cries of rampant piracy from the Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA), the notion that not a single subscriber from Eircom’s 700,000 customer pool has been caught file-sharing more than twice is certainly going to raise eyebrows.

Several years ago the ISP said it was sending out at least 1,000 notices per week, but now the company apparently doesn’t want anyone to know how many are going out.

“We don’t share details on the number of letters issued,” a spokesman said.

Independent.ie cites a source close to Eircom who states that many of those who received letters are “believed to have desisted from suspected filesharing” but with no figures being released on the number of warnings being sent, it’s impossible to draw any conclusions. Of course, it’s also just as easily said that those who were caught originally simply went underground with their downloading habits.

For their part, IRMA clearly thinks that the Eircom program is working. The music group is currently taking legal action to force ISP UPC to Eircom in promising to disconnect pirating customers.

If UPC loses and then follows Eircom’s example, that will presumably amount to zero subscribers by 2018.

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