ISPs Rally Against Labels

A coalition of Irish Internet service providers has rebuffed the music industry’s attempts to force a “three strikes” disconnection policy on all of the country’s major Internet providers.

The ISP group has sent an open letter to IRMA (Irish Recorded Music Association) dismissing what it calls “spurious” legal threats against them. It also made it clear the ISPs won’t ignore established privacy law to aid the music industry’s campaign against illegal music swappers.

As in France, where the issue is being debated in parliament, the “three strikes” rule has encountered more opposition as it moves closer to becoming law.
In late February, IRMA sent letters to Ireland’s ISPs demanding they implement the French-style “three strikes” rule and block Web sites the music industry claims give illegal access to copyrighted music.

The letters warned that Eircom, Ireland’s largest Internet provider, had already agreed to its demands as part of an out of court settlement deal. Eircom also agreed not to oppose any court action taken by the labels in the future.

After weeks of silence on the issue, the Internet Service Providers in Ireland (ISPAI) released a statement saying they’re under no legal obligation to follow IRMA’s orders.

ISPAI said privacy of user communications is protected in European and Irish legislation. ISPs can’t be expected to ignore these merely because it doesn’t suit another private party. It says doing so would breach the privacy of its users and have serious implications for the continued location of international e-business in Ireland.

The ISPAI letter said its board of directors and general manager consulted with its members, who voted on a majority basis to approve the position statement.

The group’s letter also said its members have never condoned the use of their Internet services for theft of copyrighted material and will continue to operate “within the existing legal framework” to take actions where appropriate.

The ISPAI group says it’s disappointed that the Internet’s great potential to provide opportunities to connect with users in new ways and develop new business models is being missed by the music recording industry.

It said the Internet has revolutionized countless other services where consumers have benefited from any-time accessibility, wider choice and reduced prices.