On 26-01-2012 junior Minister Sean Sherlock proposed an “Irish SOPA”. The proposed legal amendment, whose final wording has not been released, raises fears that courts could be given the right to hold intermediaries such as websites and ISPs to account for hosting any material that might infringe copyright. This could include most online services.
The proposed legal amendment is in response to an Irish High Court action held in 2010. The action was between EMI Records (Ireland), Sony Music Entertainment Ireland, Universal Music Ireland Limited, Warner Music Ireland Limited and WEA International Incorporated and UPC Communications Ireland Limited. The media companies sought an injunction against UPC as an Internet service provider, to prevent the theft of their copyright by third parties illegally downloading it over the Internet. Finding in favour of UPC, in his judgment, Mr Justice Peter Charleton held that laws seeking to identify and disconnect copyright infringers were not enforceable in Ireland, regardless of the record companies’ complaints.
The media companies’ strategy towards copyright theft, seems a little bit like the Police prosecuting the National Roads Authority for assisting a thief driving to and from the premises stolen from.
Just like the now possibly abandoned SOPA and PIPA legislation in the US, Minister Sherlocks proposal, which has not been published at this point, could put the burden on website owners to police user-contributed material and call for the unnecessary blocking of entire sites. Small sites won’t have sufficient resources to defend themselves. Internet businesses based in Ireland, such as our own indigenous Irish companies or inward foreign investment corporations could be closed down or discouraged from opening offices in Ireland. Sites might also be prevented from showing up in major search engines.
Consider signing the “Stop Internet Censorship. Stop SOPA in Ireland” petition here.