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Ireland’s ISPs “not responsible” for internet piracy

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The debate about internet piracy, in particular music and movie piracy, reemerged yesterday after a High Court decision in favour of UPC stated that the company was not responsible for piracy policing on its network.

In an aggressive approach by record companies that continues to threaten net neutrality in Ireland, yesterday’s case was another demand by the ‘big four’ record labels for ISPs to become gatekeepers to the internet. The record companies want ISPs to ignore the rights of Irish internet users in favour of their own exploits, requiring them to monitor user’s activity across their networks, and dismiss the common and valid conclusion of ISPs as “mere conduits” on data delivery.

The Sociable contacted the Internet Service Providers Association of Ireland (ISPAI) this morning and asked them to comment on the UPC case. Paul Durrant, General Manager, responded saying that “as an industry we in no way condone the use of our services for the infringement of copyright”. However, he also stated that ISPs simply provide an infrastructural service allowing customers to access the internet, but were “not responsible for the misdemeanours” of users.

“European law makes it quite clear we are not obliged to monitor and we deliver data over our networks as ‘mere conduits’. If ‘proper’ evidence is brought before a court by a rights holder of infringement, ISPs have respected court orders to disclose the subscriber using the IP address at the time of the alleged infringement.”

Durrant also iterated that ISPs, as private companies, should never be given the function as arbitrators of law: “The judgement [in referral to UPCs High Court case yesterday] even talks considerably about this being successfully used in the past and even talks about the numbers of tracks so discovered as having being illegally downloaded. The clear opportunity therefore lies to punish those who are responsible for the theft – and that is not the ISPs but the users who have undertaken the theft – and the right state authority to adjudicate as to whether a user is guilty or not and to decide on the punishment – is the courts. This should never be a function of private companies or individuals.”

We asked Durrant to comment on any ramifications that yesterday’s decision might have on Eircom and their out-of-court settlement with the ‘big four’ record labels last year. He stated that he could not comment on the possible implications for Eircom as that “was a private settlement between two parties, so it is only for those two parties to decide if their agreement is affected”.

It’s hard to understand the ignorance of some record companies when it comes to the internet. New technology brings new opportunities and new ways of monetizing content. This is evident in the remediation of vinyl to cassette, and cassette to CD, where the industry could essentially resell the same content in an improved and more accessible format. The internet now provides a revolutionary new format allowing music to be distributed, consumed, and experienced in more diverse ways than ever.  Instead of embracing the internet and finding new and profitable ways of monetizing content, the record companies are busy pursuing a torrent of thoughtless and pointless law suits that benefit no one.

A statement on the ISPAI website regarding the inert ability of record companies reads: “ISPAI is disappointed that the great potential of the internet, to provide opportunities to connect with users in new ways and develop new business models, is being missed by the music recording industry. The Internet has revolutionised countless other services where consumers have benefited from any-time accessibility, wider choice and reduced prices.”

If record companies put as much thought into new and innovative ways of making their content more accessible online as they do preparing law suits, then record companies, ISPs, and users would all have a lot more to sing about.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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Darren McCarra
Darren McCarra is co-editor of The Sociable. He has a keen interest in photography, all things mobile, and writing about technology and social media. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.