Three-strikes whiffs in Ireland

Three-Strikes Three-strikes will not be coming to Ireland. A High Court there on Monday ruled that it did not have the authority under Irish law to order an ISP to disconnect subscribers caught repeatedly downloading copyrighted content illegally. Any attempt to amend the law to give courts that authority, moreover, would likely not be enforceable in Ireland because it would conflict with European Union copyright directives, the court said.

The ruling is a major blow to the Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA) which had brought the case against UPC, the Emerald Isle’s third-largest ISP, seeking to force it to adopt a strict three-strikes regime. Although the judge in the case, Mr. Justice Peter Charleton, made it clear he found UPC’s existing  anti-piracy efforts wholly inadequate to the task, he nonetheless found that “The Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000… has made no proper provision for the blocking, diverting or interrupting of internet communications intent on breaching copyright.”

In fact, the ruling is a double blow to copyright owners. Ireland’s largest ISP, Eircom, has been testing a “voluntary” three-strikes system under an out-of-court settlement reached with IRMA in a lawsuit brought in 2009. Under the terms of that settlement, however, Eircom was not to be put at a competitive disadvantage versus other ISPs by implementing a three-strikes regime. That amounted to an agreement by IRMA to bring similar legislation against every other ISP in the country. With that approach now blocked by Monday’s ruling, the fate of the Eircom settlement is up in the air.

Monday’s ruling “will have ramifications” for Eircom’s agreement with the labels, a lawyer involved in the negotiations told the Irish Times.

The ruling also comes as France’s efforts to implement a nationwide three-strikes regime is experiencing growing pains, while in England, ISP Talk Talk has taken the government to court seeking to get the recently passed Digital Economy Act there overturned. The law, passed by the previous government, would require ISPs to monitor their networks for copyright infringement and send warning letters to those caught downloading illegally.

Further reading:

Record Labels Fail To Get Three-Strikes Rule Enforced in Ireland

French ISP Refuses To Send Anti-piracy Warning Letters

NSA ‘Yelled’ at France Over Three-Stikes; Worried It Will Drive Encryption Usage

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