Threat of legal action on music copyright


INTERNET SERVICE providers have been put on notice of legal action if they do not implement a system which would cut off the broadband connections of people found repeatedly downloading music illegally.

Letters from Sheehy Donnelly Solicitors acting on behalf of the Irish arms of EMI Records, Sony Music, Universal Music and Warner Music were received by a number of telecoms and internet service providers yesterday.

The letters seek the implementation of a “graduated response” to copyright infringement by the service providers customers.

Last month, Eircom settled a High Court action taken by the four major music labels forcing it to take measures to prevent the use of its networks for the illegal free downloading of music.

Under the agreement, Eircom subscribers found using peer-to-peer networks to download music would receive two warnings before having their account terminated.

As part of the agreement, the record labels agreed to take “all necessary steps to put similar agreements in place with all other ISPs in Ireland”.

Representatives of wireless hotspot operator Bitbuzz, mobile operator 3 Ireland and hosting firm Blacknight Solutions confirmed that they had received the letters.

“I would hope that the others [ISPs] would follow suit,” said Dick Doyle, chief executive of the Irish Recorded Music Association, which represents the major labels. “They have seven days to respond or we will go down the legal route.”

Ronan Lupton, chairman of Alto, which represents telecoms operators other than Eircom, said the Government should consider amending copyright law to give more protection to ISPs. “We will be calling for ‘mere conduit’ status for ISPs,” said Mr Lupton. This would mean they would not be liable for traffic that customers sent or received over their network.

Alex French, finance and operations director with Bitbuzz, said the demand from the record labels went too far in looking to disconnect people without “a competent court finding that they have done something wrong”.

He said he was also concerned about the reference in the letter to Eircom agreeing to block access to “the Pirate Bay websites or similar websites”. The Pirate Bay is a Swedish website which provides a directory of films, TV shows, music and other content that can be downloaded from third parties.

“We don’t support illegal activity on our network but this is an unprecedented agreement,” said Mr French. “Is the music industry planning to become Ireland’s de facto internet censor?”