Internet piracy law will be balanced, says Minister


LEGISLATION TO tighten up Irish copyright law will “balance the rights of copyright holders and individual internet users”, according to Minister of State for Research and Innovation Seán Sherlock.

However, the legislation has sparked controversy online. By 9pm last night more than 37,000 people had signed an online petition, which was set up at 9.30pm on Monday, calling on Mr Sherlock not to enact the ministerial order.

In the early hours of yesterday morning hacker groups targeted a number of websites, including Mr Sherlock’s, in protest at the proposed legislation.

Mr Sherlock said he had spoken to Government Chief Whip Paul Kehoe about facilitating a discussion on the Dáil’s order of business, although he had the power to issue a ministerial order without debate.

The legislation, which is being sought by major record labels, including EMI, Warner Music, Sony and Universal, has been compared to the Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa) in the US.

During a day of action last week, which saw websites including Wikipedia voluntarily going offline for the day, Sopa will not be passed in its current format in the US.

Mr Sherlock denied the legislation was equivalent to the proposal in the US.

“This is not Sopa legislation, it’s nowhere near it,” he said.

He described the online reaction to his proposals as “disproportionate” and said the Government would never act to limit freedom of expression.

Mr Sherlock wrote to TDs last night stating the implementation of the legislation was necessary following a 2010 High Court ruling in which music publisher EMI sought an injunction against internet provider UPC, ordering it to block access to websites that allowed illegal downloading.

While the court found EMI’s rights were breached, Mr Justice Peter Charleton pointed out he could not grant the injunction as the Copyright Act did not provide for this remedy.

Mr Sherlock told TDs the purpose of the proposed legislation is “simply to provide explicitly that injunctions may be sought”.

In its reaction the Internet Service Providers Association of Ireland said it would support the Minister as long as the legislation adhered to certain principles, including:

That it must respect the fundamental rights of internet users, and of service providers to conduct business;

That ISPs should not be obliged to interfere with the flow of web traffic on its networks.

TJ McIntyre, a lecturer in law in UCD, said a discussion on the issue would be ineffective in the absence of an up-to-date draft of the proposed legislation.

“It’s time we had a full public examination of these proposals,” he said, adding that the future of Irish internet services could not be left in the hands of judges without any real guidance.

Both the Department of Justice and Department of Finance websites were taken offline for about an hour, early yesterday after being targeted with a distributed denial of service attack.

The Department of Justice said a review of the attack was being undertaken and that there had been no damage to the website.

A Twitter account called Anonymous Sweden claimed responsibility for the attack.