Polite Sherlock tries to reply to all abusive callers


SEÁN SHERLOCK’S plan to amend copyright law to allow people seek injunctions against those they believe are infringing their copyright on the internet caused uproar among many web users and certain members of the online community.

Protests against the ministerial order resulted in streams of emails to the Minister of State for Research and Innovation (below). “I’m kinda losing sleep thinking about how I’m going to reply to them all,” he tells us.

One popular website published his mobile phone and landline numbers. This resulted in an avalanche of voice and text messages, a large number of them using threatening and abusive language. “From the voices and the style of writing, I reckoned a lot of them were from teenagers, angry because they thought I was going to shut down the internet.” However, Mr Sherlock is a courteous soul and he tried to respond to as many as he could.

“One young fella left a message warning me not to touch the internet, effing and blinding and calling me every name under the sun. I called him back and introduced myself and said I was happy to discuss his concerns. Then I asked him how old he was and he said ‘16’.

So I told him I’d call back later and talk to his mammy and we could have a chat about it.

“I think he got a bit of a fright.” A short time later, the lad’s father rang him back to apologise on his son’s behalf.

“In fairness, he was a good young fella behind it all. I’m actually encouraged by the reaction. It’s good to see these teenagers getting heated about an issue and finding a campaign they can be active in.

“There’s a whole generation of young people out there who have grown up in a culture with the expectation that all content is free. I want to explain to them that all we’re seeking to do is strike a balance in terms of people’s fundamental rights.”

The Minister said he had a lot of good discussions with people. “But I found when I tried to engage with the ones who sent abusive messages, they didn’t want to know. If I texted back something like ‘Seán Sherlock here, I’ll give you a shout in two minutes and we’ll discuss this’, the phone would ring out when I called.” Why is this unsurprising?