Internet users face shutdown over illegal music downloads

INTERNET USERS face having their connections shut down if they continue to download music illegally, following an agreement reached…

INTERNET USERS face having their connections shut down if they continue to download music illegally, following an agreement reached between Eircom and four major record companies in the High Court yesterday.

Under a system known as “three strikes and you are out”, Eircom customers downloading music from peer to peer services will receive two warnings but will be disconnected if they continue to engage in the activity.

Peer to peer services allow people to find music and other files on the PCs of other users and to easily share those files.

As part of the deal, the record companies – EMI, Sony, Universal and Warner – have agreed that they will take “all necessary steps” to put similar agreements in place with all other internet service providers (ISPs) in Ireland.

The settlement was announced to Mr Justice Peter Charleton late yesterday evening after lengthy talks between the sides on the eighth day of a legal action which was listed to run for four weeks.

The record companies had wanted Eircom to install software from a US firm that would detect the unique “fingerprint” of copyrighted music files being sent on its network.

However, the telecoms firm had claimed this would not be technically feasible.

Eircom is pleased with the settlement as it does not have to add software to its network, which could interfere with the broadband service. It also doesn’t run the risk of running foul of privacy laws by having to provide details of its subscribers to the music industry.

As part of the settlement, the record companies will supply Eircom with the IP addresses of all persons who they detect illegally uploading or downloading copyright works.

Eircom will then contact the subscribers directly and either warn them or terminate their account.

Willie Kavanagh, chairman of EMI Records, said he was delighted with the outcome and commended Eircom’s far-seeing approach.

During the court case it was claimed music piracy is costing record companies here up to €14 million a year.

Other ISPs contacted by The Irish Times last night could not confirm if they would implement the system. A spokeswoman for 3 Ireland, which has 130,000 mobile broadband customers, said it would be “happy to look into the matter”.

Ronan Lupton, chairman of Alto, which represents telecoms operators other than Eircom, said the agreement “is not one enforceable on the rest of the industry given the direct nature of the action against Eircom”.

It is also understood some other providers do not have the technical ability to monitor peer to peer traffic.

Other European countries are considering implementing the three strikes approach but Mr Kavanagh described the agreement as the first of its kind worldwide.