I always hoped for better for Ireland; but it seems the thieving hand of “rights” organizations which pretend to represent the artist have struck gold. Being able to cajole and bribe the largest Irish Internet Service Provider (ISP) - Eircom; has worked only too well. Although Eircom has said it will only obey by having a court order - it has agreed never to oppose these - which makes it complicit in the act of censorship. My Letter to Our ISP, Eircom, IRMA, EFF:

Dear [OUR ISP],

We are a loyal customer of yours. We are writing this because we’re concerned about recent news regarding IRMA (Irish Music Rights Ass.) relationship with your company (the recent letters sent out).

It would seem that they are seeking to become self-appointed censors of Irish Internet communications. We do not think that a third-party company should be permitted to arbitrarily decide which Internet sites Eircom users; or more importantly any Irish Internet user should be allowed to visit. Will IRMA want to block sites that merely link to copyrightable material, proxy sites that circumvent the block, blogs that criticize its actions? This is a very slippery slope and should be nipped in the bud.

In the recent high profile case against The Pirate Bay in Sweden; IRMA’s handlers (IFPI, RIAA) have shown their hand: they don’t even understand the underlying technology. John Kennedy, CEO. IFPI:

Kennedy said he qualified as a lawyer since the 70’s but hasn’t practiced recently. He was asked if he understood BitTorrent. Kennedy said he did, but in “very vague terms.” When the defense lawyers asked more detailed questions, about uTorrent for instance, Kennedy said he’d heard of it but had no idea of the details. It was very clear he knew nothing about any remotely technical issues.

This is the the kind of people who wish to regulate the Internet. Questions need to be asked that if you follow IRMA’s requested actions does this open you up to legal action for any other kinds of material which rights holders are protective of (Church of Scientology) ? and can you retain common carrier status like An Post; and need warrants issued instead of some rights organisation sending you a vague letter pretending to represent XY&Z ?
We understand the ‘concern’ about Internet piracy. Artists definitely need to be paid for their hard work. It is an important issue in this day and age, and it must be addressed correctly. Censorship is not the answer. It is avoiding the issue. As has always happened in these cases, it is normal customers who are inconvenienced and have their free speech restricted the most. We need solutions that work, not knee-jerk reactions that are doomed to fail. We recommend you read the EFF’s whitepaper on a better way forward for online music. http://www.eff.org/wp/better-way-forward-voluntary-collective-licensing-music-file-sharing

There are opportunities here that are being missed. I think it would be for the benefit of both artists and music fans if a solution could be found that combines the technologies developed by the pirates with a fair system for paying artists.

**There was a very similar case in Italy where ISPs were forced to block The Pirate Bay’s website after pressure from the music industry (the result was that Italian traffic to the site increased by 5%) . The ban was judged illegal in court under European Directive, 2000/31 CE which is also applicable in Ireland. **

If this ban goes ahead, Eircom and indeed Ireland will have a tarnished image on the world stage as a place where misguided efforts to protect revenue supersede freedom of communication. We would also be strongly considering abandoning our Internet subscription for an ISP who doesn’t cave to these demands, and we imagine many other business’ will too.
Please, make the right choice. The world is watching. Your decision will have an important impact on the future of the Internet in Ireland.

Yours faithfully,
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I will posting more on this issue as it happens. Stay Tuned!