Vodafone in line to join file-sharing clampdown


VODAFONE IRELAND is in talks with the record industry to join Eircom in its “three strikes and you’re out” rule for those involved in illegal file-sharing.

The company is the second biggest internet service provider (ISP) in the State with 21 per cent of all fixed broadband connections along with a substantial mobile broadband customer base.

Between them Eircom and Vodafone provide nearly two-thirds of all household broadband connections in the Republic.

A pilot scheme to implement what Eircom also calls the “graduated response protocol” has been under way since last month and about 800 illegal file-sharers have already received a warning.

In an out-of-court settlement last year between the music industry and Eircom, the company agreed to issue three warnings to illegal file-sharers who download music through what are known as peer-to-peer networks.

After a fourth offence, they would find their broadband cut off for a year.

In a statement issued yesterday, Vodafone said it was aware of the Eircom actions and acknowledged that illegal file-sharing represents a “serious issue for the Irish music industry”.

It said it would be looking at “appropriate steps” consistent with “applicable legislation and recent judicial decisions”.

EMI Ireland chief executive Willie Kavanagh said “significant progress” had been made with Vodafone in relation to implementing a solution similar to that which Eircom is using to deter file-sharers.

Vodafone is in negotiation with the Irish Recorded Music Association (Irma) which represents all the major record labels.

Mr Kavanagh, who is also the chairman of Irma, said that any agreement with Vodafone would make Ireland the European leader in terms of dealing with the problem.

Mr Kavanagh confirmed that Irma has engaged former minister for justice Michael McDowell SC in its file-sharing court action against UPC which begins tomorrow in the Commercial Court.

He admitted the Irish record industry has halved in size in the last four years. It had been hoped that last year would see a “bottoming out” of the decline in record sales as a result of illegal downloading. However, record sales were down a further 12 per cent this year.

Aslan sold 11,000 copies of their latest album, but nearly three times that had been downloaded illegally, he said.

Mr Kavanagh warned that there would be no record industry in Ireland within five years unless illegal file-sharing was tackled.

In a statement, Vodafone said it was now looking at providing “easy availability of legal downloads of music” to counteract illegal file-sharing.

It is believed to be looking at a subscription model which would allow customers to both download and stream tracks for a set monthly fee.

In Spain, Vodafone has implemented a successful policy of charging €6 a month for 20 tracks, but the company insists it is too early to say what kind of model it would adapt here.