What is happening?
- IRMA, the Irish Recorded Music Association, wants to block Irish Internet users’ access to certain websites.
- They have written letters to Irish Internet providers telling them, under threat of legal action, to allow IRMA to tell them what websites to block. Eircom has already agreed to this. They will settle every application for website blocking out of court.
- No sites have been blocked yet. We have limited time to act before the bans are set.
- A copy of the letter sent out to Irish ISPs has been kindly made available by Michele Neylon of Blacknight Solutions. Read it here.
IRMA believes that by blocking websites like thepiratebay.org it will reduce piracy in Ireland and preserve some of its profits.
What’s the problem?
- Blackout Ireland does not think that this will be effective in combating piracy. Furthermore, we think it is a serious breach of civil liberties and that it constitutes censorship.
- There is no certainty in what sites IRMA will include in their requests for banning. Will they seek to ban websites that merely link to copyrightable content, without actually hosting it? Proxy websites that could serve to circumvent the ban? Sites like riaaradar.com that promote boycotting members of record label associations? Blogs that criticize IRMA’s actions? This very website? There is no telling where IRMA will draw the line. This is a very slippery slope.
- Blocking websites never works. It creates free publicity for the site in question. Pirates will always be able to circumvent blocks with ease. Legitimate paying users will be once again be the ones most inconvenienced and have their freedom of communication restricted the most.
- Censorship is not a solution. It is avoiding the issue. It does not pay artists for their work.
- Blackout Ireland thinks the solutions proposed by the EFF and the European Green Party Free Alliance are much more effective. Their respective solutions benefit both artists and music fans. They embrace new technology rather than shunning it.
What can I do?
Please contact your Internet service provider (ISP).
- A list of emails addresses to contact can be found here.
- Make it clear in your email/letter that you are, as a customer, very concerned about this issue.
- Tell your ISP that if they implement IRMA’s threats you will consider changing to a provider who does not cave in to demands for censorship.
- Be polite and clear.
- A sample letter may be found here but please personalize it to reflect your thoughts and opinion
- Please contact the TD for your constituency.
- Contact details may be found here.
- Tell your representative that this is an important issue to you, as a constituent.
- Ask them if they are willing to stand up for the right of Irish people to communicate freely on the Internet.
- Tell them why you think giving third-party companies the power to ban websites is a bad thing and is setting a dangerous precedent.
- Tell them that their actions relating to this issue will strongly affect your voting preferences.
- Please contact Minister for Communications Eamon Ryan TD
- He can be phoned at 01 – 618 3097
- He can be emailed at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Tell him you are extremely worried about IRMA’s desire to censor Irish communications.
- Tell him Ireland’s image will be damaged internationally if we gain the reputation as a place with restricted Internet communications.
- Remind him that in Italy, a very similar blocking of The Pirate Bay was overruled in court citing European Directive, 2000/31 CE which is also applicable in Ireland.
- Ask him if he is willing to implement any of the solutions proposed by his party?
- Take part in Blackout Week
- To demonstrate your feelings about this issue online you can make your avatar black on any websites you have a presence on.
- This is inspired by Creative Freedom New Zealand’s blackout campaign.
- From Black Thursday on the 5th of March, for one week, set your picture on sites like Facebook, Bebo, Twitter, MSN, etc black to raise awareness for Blackout Ireland.
- On that Thursday we encourage you to express yourself publicly about this issue. Whether by blog posts, letters to newspapers or any form of communication you can think of.
Who are Blackout Ireland?
Blackout Ireland are a group of Irish Internet users who are concerned by the prospect of Ireland having a censored Internet. We do not think private companies should be allowed dictate what websites the Irish people are allowed to visit.
From the RTE website:
“Four record companies have brought a High Court action to compel Eircom – the State’s largest broadband service provider – to prevent its networks being used for the illegal downloading of music.
It’s the first case to be aimed at the service provider rather than at individual illegal downloaders.
The four record companies taking the action are EMI, Sony BMG, Universal Music and Warner Music.
Willie Kavanagh, Managing Director of EMI Ireland and Chairman of the Irish Recorded Music Association, said because of illegal downloading and other factors, the Irish music industry was experiencing a “dramatic and accelerating decline” in income.
He said sales in the Irish market dropped 30% in the six years up to 2007.
EMI and the other companies are challenging Eircom’s refusal to use filtering technology or other measures to voluntarily block or filter illegally downloaded material.
Last October Eircom told the companies it was not in a position to use the filtering software.
Eircom also told the companies that it was not on notice of specific illegal activity which infringed the companies’ rights and it had no legal obligation to monitor traffic on its network.”
From the Irish Times (behind a pay wall):
“FOUR MAJOR record companies have brought an unprecedented High Court action aimed at compelling Eircom, as the largest broadband internet service provider in the State, to take specific measures to prevent its networks being used for the illegal free downloading of music by computer users.
The case is the first here aimed at internet service providers, rather than individual illegal downloaders, ……
In his affidavit, Mr Kavanagh outlined measures by the record industry aimed at discouraging record piracy, including public awareness campaigns and legal actions against individuals.
He said legal actions brought against persons with the highest numbers of illegal files on their computers at specific times had proven costly and time consuming. The record companies believed selective legal action was not sufficient to safeguard their property rights and the deterrent effect of such cases was not enough to stop people using illegal services on a broad scale.
Mr Kavanagh said the reality for many young people was that they had never known a position where they actually had – as a practical matter, rather than as a matter of law – to pay for sound recordings.”
Digital is digital. Whether it’s audio, video, text or pictures, once it becomes digital it just becomes a stream of ones and zeros.
To properly filter traffic on the network ISPs would have to intercept all the packets on the network, identify the ones destined for users on their IP addresses (as peering arrangements mean a lot of traffic is transitory), test the unencrypted packets against the fingerprints they have for filtering and then check to see whether the content is being used in a way that is infringing copyright law as it exists on the statute books in that jurisdiction.
A number of questions arise from this. What would they do with the encrypted traffic? Should they assume nefarious intent and refuse to carry it? How do they test what is copyright infringement? How do they know the fingerprints they have correctly correlate with the content they are associated with? Once ISPs are capturing all packets on their network are they legally obliged to filter for other civil or criminal lawbreaking?
I can understand the music companies wanting to target the ISPs. They have bigger and deeper pockets than the individual actually committing copyright infringement, but you have to ask yourself a question if you’re a music executive – how well has the business model of suing worked so far? Getting ISPs into court may well be a bargaining position to move towards a blanket licence model. This would not be a dumb idea, but unfortunately the track record to date would suggest otherwise.
My advice. Take the thing that makes the Internet what it is and use it to your advantage. If you recognise computers as wonderful copying machines, digital content as a perfect format to be copied and the Internet as an ideal medium for
distributing copied content then all you need is to refocus your concepts on what your content is for. I could go on but why bother trying to save an industry that seems so determined to run itself into the ground. I can’t begin to tell you how much negative feeling I have towards Eircom for abusing their near monopoly position in Ireland. They have a very poor roll-out of broadband and the prices they charge (with capped downloads!) are outrageous – but suddenly they now look like heroes. That’s some achievement by the record industry!