Illegal music downloaders face cut-off, Eircom warns


EIRCOM HAS resumed its policy of cutting off the internet connection of customers who illegally share music online.

Before suspending this policy earlier this year the company sent out about 1,000 warning notifications a week to people who were breaking copyright law by illegally downloading music.

Its “three strikes” policy allows customers three official warnings before their internet connection is suspended.

Earlier this year, rival broadband supplier UPC won a High Court battle against several record companies. The ruling found internet providers were not liable for a customer’s illegal downloading. Despite this, Eircom has decided to resume the strategy it implemented a year earlier following an out-of-court settlement with the same companies.

“The UPC case surprised everybody I think and we had to pause and then had a think about it. We have waited to confirm a public position, which we have done now,” said Stephen Beynon, Eircom’s managing director for consumers and small businesses.

Mr Beynon said that as the country’s largest broadband provider, Eircom felt its method of warning internet users about their activities was the best compromise between music companies and internet providers.

Before its suspension, the “three strikes” policy involved processing about 1,000 copyright infringement notifications a week. Under its protocol, after a customer receives three strikes their connection is suspended for a week and any further breaches of copyright would trigger a 12-month withdrawal of services.

In practice, Eircom has not yet disconnected any customers’ broadband but it did have some on three strikes at the time of the UPC court case. Any action against these accounts was suspended until the High Court’s ruling and its repercussions were clear. Those who were on three strikes at the time of the suspension of the policy will now be regarded as having received two warnings, placing them one warning away from having their service suspended.

Speaking about the controversial UPC court case, Mr Beynon said: “I think it set the [music] industry back. It was destructive to creating an environment for artists to be creative.”

Ronan Lupton, chairman of Alto, which represents several telecommunications companies including UPC, said the announcement was purely a commercial decision for Eircom.

Representatives of the relevant industries had met recently in Ireland and he would welcome other such meetings that would allow internet providers to work constructively with the music industry to agree on a solution that would suit all stakeholders, he said.

Dick Doyle, director general of Irma, the representative body for record labels, said his members wanted to do commercial deals with other internet service providers, but these providers would have to agree to implement the graduated response to file-sharing that Eircom had put in place.

He complimented Eircom’s online music service launched yesterday, MusicHub, and said record labels around the world were watching to see how it went.

MusicHub offers free and unlimited streaming to Eircom broadband customers along with deals for legally downloading music to personal computers. Mr Beynon described it as the carrot part of the company’s carrot-and-stick approach to counteracting copyright infringement.