Warning: Irish Government Pirating Your Rights

Update 27/01/2012:

The number of signatures on the petition against "SOPA Ireland" (or "Sherlock's Folly" as some are calling it) is now hitting 60,000 - an incredible number for a petition started just days ago. If you're an Irish citizen and haven't yet, please sign it.

There was a brief 15 minute debate in an empty government chamber last night, but thankfully a little common sense seems to be applied to the situation and we'll have a 50 minute debate on Tuesday next.

Mark Dennehy has a great blog post on his work to get reforms in legislation and why he thinks the system itself needs an overhaul:

I've given up on the idea of working legislation in this country at this stage in almost any area of life. We'd need major change to fix the system of government before we'd get decent legislation for anything

We're going to get some more debate on this issue, but Sherlock appears intent on signing. He seems naive enough to believe that his legislation is fine as it is, and that the courts will deal with any spurious legislation. This beggars belief - we've seen the film and music industry in America taking dead people and people who don't even own computers to court for online copyright violations.

Individuals and small businesses who can't afford to fight won't stand a chance - when they get a threatening letter they will not risk the chance of court costs, regardless of how spurious it is.


Original post:

Last week, we had SOPA and PIPA in the US. This week in Ireland, in an even less democratic fashion, we have a "statutory instrument", which requires no parlimentary or public debate, ready to be signed into law by a single minister's pen.

The "Statutory Instrument Number (TBD) of 2011 European Communities (Copyright and Related Rights) Regulations 2011", otherwise known as the "Irish SOPA" is allegedly being enacted in order to comply with EU law, but the European Commission – which monitors implementation of EU law – doesn't seem to think Ireland is in breach and hasn't taken any action against Ireland for failure to introduce blocking.

The situation can no longer be tolerated where Irish Ministers enact EU legislation by statutory instrument. The checks and balances of parliamentary democracy are by-passed.

Very wise! Who said that? Why, the current government in their Programme For Government 2011!

So we have a law being rushed in by the government, with no parlimentary debate - against the wishes of the government's own programme, in order to comply with EU law that we're probably not in breach of. It gets worse! The proposed amendment is so vague that no one is completely sure what it will actually mean, even the guy signing it into law. Here's one interpretation from the chairman of Digital Rights Ireland:

This will give the Irish courts an open-ended power to grant orders against ISPs and other intermediaries who provide facilities which might be used to infringe copyright. This could include hosting providers, social networks, forums, video hosting sites – potentially most online services.

TJ McIntyre (IT Law in Ireland)

And from Ireland's largest hosting company:

What that translates into in plain English is that we, a hosting provider, could be held liable for a copyright infringement that we knew nothing about. Of course it goes further than that, as it could be (ab)used and force us, and others in industry, to either block access (filter) your internet connection or disable access to entire websites and domains. Or taking it further, if a rights holder found an infringing photo on Facebook they could demand that the site be blocked!

Michele Neylon (Blacknight)

Let's be clear: I've created software and multimedia digital products. I really don't want people to steal my digital content because it puts food on the table.

But I equally don't want crazily open ended legislation enacted in my name, or in the name of any content creator from Hollywood to Dublin.

If we need to introduce legislation, let's take the time to have a full and open debate, and let's make sure it's limited in scope so that it covers what it needs to and no more.

There are three ways to fight piracy: endless legal actions, legally blocking access, or creating alternative legit offers.

Frédéric Filloux (MondayNote.com)

Creating alternative offers works. Don't believe me, listen to one of the richest game developers on Earth:

The easiest way to stop piracy is not by putting anti-piracy technology to work. It's by giving those people a service that’s better than what they're receiving from the pirates.

Now we did something where we decided to look at price elasticity. We do a 75 percent price reduction, our experience tells us that our gross revenue would remain constant. Instead what we saw was our gross revenue increased by a factor of 40. Not 40 percent, but a factor of 40.

Gabe Newell (owner of game developer Valve Corporation)

Governments around the world are trying to introduce legislation to allegedly protect digital rights holders from online piracy, at the behest of a small number of very large multinational corporations who refuse to accept the changed landscape of digital content production. Most of these legislative efforts are inept at best, and totally corrupt at worst.

The RIAA approach is to sue everyone in sight. Thankfully that doesn't seem to be going so well for them lately.

Because of the MPAA you can't watch a movie without being forced to watch a long anti-piracy warning (unless, of course, you pirate the movie).

Ridiculously, in Canada and some EU & other countries, you get charged a levy on all blank CDs and SD cards - which are obviously used only to pirate music and never, ever just to back up your Documents folder from last year, right? Monies collected are distributed to rights holders based on commercial radio airplay and commercial sales samples, ignoring radio/college airplay and independent record sales - all of which favours major-label artists. Does that mean I should just buy blank CDs and borrow my Canuck friend's CD collection for the weekend - I mean it is already paid for, right?

ACTA is an another one of these pieces of legislation, in the form of an international trade agreement. The "Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement" currently being negotiated by the European Union, the United States, Japan, Canada, South Korea, Australia as well as a few other countries, whose aim is to enforce copyright and tackle counterfeited goods.

Super, I'm all for that! Unless it has really bad side effects, of course.

We are in danger of ending up with the worst of both worlds, pushing IP rules, which are very effective at stopping access to life-saving drugs but are very bad at stopping or preventing fake drugs.

Michelle Childs (Médecins Sans Frontières)

Why are all the ACTA negotiations being done secretly? Leaked documents show that one of the major goals of ACTA is to force signatory countries into implementing anti file-sharing and net filtering practices. Where have we seen this before? Ah yes, hello MPAA, RIAA, SOPA and (deep breath) our own Statutory Instrument Number (TBD) of 2011 European Communities (Copyright and Related Rights) Regulations 2011 (whew).

Even though a substantial portion of my living comes from the entertainment industry, I don't think that any amount of "piracy" justifies this kind of depraved indifference to the consequences of one's actions.

Big Content haven't just declared war on [..] the "fun" Internet: they've declared war on every person who uses the net to publicize police brutality, every oppressed person in the Arab Spring who used the net to organize protests and publicize the blood spilled by their oppressors[..] -- as well as the scientists, [..] rescue workers who coordinate online, the makers who trade tips online, the people with rare diseases who support each other online, and the independent creators who use the Internet to earn their livings.

Cory Doctorow (blogger, journalist, and science fiction author)

The Irish SOPA originally had a deadline of next Tuesday, but it looks like the Minister has taken heed of the huge amount of opposition this has generated in such a short time, and will probably abandon the deadline:

Let the government know of your opposition by signing the stopSOPAireland petition here which is currently at around 44,000 signatures (and gaining around 8-10,000 per day over the past 3 days), and tweet your comments with the #SOPAireland hashtag.

As for ACTA, it has the potential to be even worse, and possibly thanks to the secrecy in negotiations, we know very little for sure. Learn more about ACTA here and search for #ACTA on Twitter.

Do your part to learn more about IP rights and piracy. This issue has huge ramifications for the development of the internet and thus our entire society - the future of privacy, communication and commerce for the entire race. It is not a clear cut issue as some interested parties would have you believe. I'll sign off with this brilliantly simple TED talk on SOPA from Clay Shirky:

About Alastair McDermott

Alastair McDermott is an online business and technology consultant specialising in web design & development, internet marketing and search engine optimisation. He has been building websites and software since 1996 and is a ten year veteran of using WordPress.

Alastair blogs and makes media of all kinds at WebsiteDoctor. Follow him on Twitter at @WebsiteDoctor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *