IRMA v Eircom

I can’t help but think that the settlement reached in the IRMA v Eircom case is going to be bad for Irish citizens. It’s not clear to me why Eircom capitulated but I presume their legal advisors believed a win was unlikely. . Silicon Republic has a piece here regarding the recent “landmark settlment”
The settlement isn’t actually a “precedent” as such but it does make it unlikely that other ISP’s wouldn’t atttempt a defence suggesting they didn’t have any responsibility for their customers’ actions using their access networks. Pity, it’s a bit like holding the roads authority liable for losses arising from bad driving. Maybe that would be a good idea 🙂
The problem that I have with this settlement is that it’s private in both its complete terms and the outline of its implementation. It’s unclear how Eircom will implement the suggested 3 strikes policy. I simply don’t trust the music companies or any company they subcontract to reliably identify those participating in P2P filesharing activities. Recollections of unscrupulous activities on behalf of the RIAA abound.
Evidence of false accusations arising from a similar activity in the US have already been documented. See el reg for more info. .
So under the recent settlement, as it’s been detailed so far, an Eircom ISP customer can be disconnected based on accusations, nothing more. The state is not involved in investigating and verifying these accusations. No coherent case is necessary beyond a computer log provided by DetecNet or whoever is subcontracted to provide this service. Quite frankly, that sucks.
Readers of this blog will notice that I normally come down hard on all forms of “freetardation” or the belief that people should be able to rip off other people’s products because it’s technically possible to do so. I’m not sorry for the publishers who find themselves as technological dinosaurs struggling to adapt. Their businesses will change. Some will prosper and some will die. Technology will always dramatically change some businesses. It’s the artists I feel most sorry for as they should be rewarded for their creative works.
This settlement doesn’t really further their rights however. The EU Parliament has already voted against such 3 strikes rules which have been introduced in France. Also described here. The EU parliament reasonably decided that only a judicial process should be able to disconnect someone from the internet. This is reasonable for democratic reasons. Think about the democratic abuse possible when citizens can be disconnected based on unsubstantiated accusations. If it happened in China we’d be agressively pointed fingers.
However, the European Commission, are doing their level best to overturn the amendment which would remove all obligation from ISP’s for content filtering and summary disconnection. This, in a nutshell, is why I’m going to vote NO for a second time to Lisbon. The European Parliament undoubtedly has a conscience but the Commission panders to big business, the larger EU countries and isn’t too concerned with the idea of separation of powers.
The media publishing companies might be over the moon but we now have a settlement where a disproporationate penalty can be imposed on any individual or business which is accused of engaging in this illegal activity without the oversight of the judiciary. Just because the publishers are sustaining loss doesn’t mean they should be able to act unilaterally or suspend the judicial process.
I sincerely hope one of the Irish ISP’s decides to fight this case rather than acquiesce.