Eircom and illegal downloads


Madam, – It would seem Ireland is leading the way worldwide in handing control of our internet services over to the four major record labels (Front Page, May 24th). They have proposed draconian measures which have been voted against, judged unconstitutional, and met with ferocious opposition in other countries. They want Eircom to cut off your internet if they think you are illegally downloading music.

Allow me to propose my own three strikes against this policy:

1. The major record companies are taking this course of action to stop the unauthorised sharing of their music. They are entitled to protect their rights, and they should be able to take whatever legitimate action they wish. However, file- sharers are by far the biggest buyers of music, with studies showing they buy 10 times more than those who don’t share. Is it wise for record labels to cut off such a large source of revenue? Those who wish to continue illegally downloading copyrighted material will be able to continue to do so. It would be naive of the record industries not to realise that they are always two steps behind. Illegal downloaders have nothing to fear from this.

2. With this latest action, the record labels appear to be violating the basic human rights of internet users in Ireland. The disconnections are based on a premise of guilt upon accusation. There is no due legal process involved. The right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty is ignored.

Everyone has the right to freedom of speech, access to information, and communication through any media.

The recent High Court ruling suggests that the copyrights of the four major record labels are more important than the rights of citizens to access the internet. This is the exact opposite of the findings of the French Constitutional Council, and the view of the European Parliament.

We have handed the major labels control over who and what is allowed on the internet. Why should they enjoy this power exclusively? I’m sure the film industry would be interested, as would book publishers.

3. It is entirely disproportionate to disconnect entire households from every part of the internet. Families depend on the internet daily for work, income, education, shopping, travel, talking with relatives and a host of other activities unrelated to music. To take all these things away is the online equivalent of imprisonment.

The methods used to detect copyright infringement are very error-prone. Thousands of innocent users in other countries have been falsely accused.

If a book publisher were to accuse a person of photocopying a book, we wouldn’t send them and their entire family to jail for a year, without trial, on the word of a company that had previously made thousands of false accusations.

Why should we hold double standards for the internet? I would urge Eircom customers who care about their rights to vote with their wallet and switch to another provider such as UPC (Chorus NTL) who, unlike Eircom, have stood up and pledged to defend the rights of their customers. – Yours, etc,


Knapton Terrace,

Knapton Road,

Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin.