Three Strikes Begins

Ireland became the first country to implement a “three strikes” law against Internet piracy May 24, when leading ISP Eircom began contacting customers suspected of illegal file-sharing.

The “graduated response” begins with Eircom telephoning the customer and asking if they’re aware of the activity on their broadband network.

If the downloading continues despite the warning, the ISP sends a written warning. If that isn’t heeded, the customers have their service withdrawn for seven days.

If the illegal downloading restarts after the customer has been reconnected, the next disconnection will be for a year.

Eircom was forced to take up the mantle for putting the three strikes policy in place as part of the settlement for a High Court copyright infringement case brought against it by record companies including EMI, Sony, Universal and Warner.

The Irish Recorded Music Association, the labels’ trade body, was satisfied provided Eircom agreed to introduce three strikes for all of its 750,000 broadband customers.

The ISP may have hoped for a reprieve when the methods of collecting information on the customers was legally challenged by the Data Protection Commissioner.

But High Court Judge Mr. Justice Peter Charleton ruled that monitoring a broadband subscriber’s Internet protocol (IP) address, which Eircom will use to identify infringing customers, did not constitute an invasion of anyone’s privacy or human rights.

Eircom is expected to begin by processing about 50 addresses per week, which IRMA will provide on data produced by private firm Dtecnet.

IRMA director general Dick Doyle said his organisation could hand Eircom thousands of IP addresses per week, but it was a matter of seeing how many the ISP is able to process. The operation of the scheme will be reviewed after three months.

Doyle says international research suggests 80 percent of people will stop illegal file-sharing if they get a letter from their ISP warning them of the consequences.

Cable operator UPC has resisted IRMA’s pressure to implement a similar system and the labels’ organisation will take it to the High Court in June.

Irish papers quoted a UPC spokeswoman saying it does not see any legal basis for monitoring or blocking its subscribers’ activities.