Music industry pushing for internet filtering as well as “three strikes” – what can you do about it?

Looks like we got it wrong. When we wrote about the deal between Eircom and the music industry we believed (as the early reports seemed to say) that it only involved a “three strikes” system and that the daft notion of internet filtering was off the table. But the nastygrams sent to the other ISPs have now been leaked (thanks Michele) so that we can now see just what was agreed with Eircom and what the music industry is demanding that other ISPs do – and filtering is still on the table:

Leave aside for a moment the nonsense of sending this letter to a business – Blacknight – which doesn’t in fact provide internet access. The key words are these:

Eircom has agreed that it will not oppose any application our client may make seeking the blocking of access from their network to the Pirate Bay or similar websites …

Please confirm that Blacknight will also work with the record industry to end the abuse of the internet by peer to peer infringers … in the event of a positive response to this letter it is proposed to make practical arrangements with Blacknight of a like nature to those made with eircom.

In short, as Adrian Weckler puts it:

Irma is drawing up a list of websites it doesn’t like and Eircom will block them to all of its customers. And Irma is demanding that other ISPs do likewise, on pain of being sued.

Eircom says that it will only block a website if a court order requests it to. But it has undertaken not to oppose any application to a court… Our judicial system is an adversarial one: it depends on someone opposing the action for a judge to come to a conclusion. If the opposing party enters no opposition, a basic standard of proof will be enough to satisfy the court.

The net effect of this scheme, if it is allowed to go into effect, will be to impose an internet death penalty on two groups. On users, who will be cut off on the allegation of a private body, with no court involvement, and on websites, which could be blocked to Irish users based on a court hearing where only one side is heard. Damien Mulley makes the point well as usual:

So first they’ll start with the Pirate Bay. Then comes Mininova, IsoHunt, then comes YouTube (they have dodgy stuff, right?), how long before we have because someone quoted a newspaper article or a section of a book? And don’t think they’ll stop there too, any site that links to The Pirate Bay and the others on the hate list will probably be added to the list too…

I’m sure the business case for eircom was they didn’t want any more costly High Court actions with McDowell biting at their legs on the command of the music industry but this is going to open up a can of worms with IRMA demanding more and more attacks on how people surf the net, this is what it is in my view an attack on our freedom to read, our freedom to write, our freedom to move around the web. All so a very rich but rapidly becoming poor group of luddites can feel better for seeing the future and trying to fight it.

And of course the costs of communications with IRMA and of the filtering is going to be passed on to the consumer. The cost of blocking a single site will be almost nothing I suppose but as more sites get added and as the arms race between the pirates and the ISPs escalates, then it’ll become complicated and complicated costs more. So again the majority get to pay…

So what can you do about this? The first step is the most urgent. The other ISPs are at this very moment considering what steps to take. Although some (such as Bitbuzz) have been vocal in their opposition, caving in is the path of least resistance unless you show that this is an issue which matters to you and which determines where you’ll take your business. Contact your ISP – mark your email for the attention of their regulatory department – and let them know what you think. Contact emails for most ISPs are on the ISPAI website. Do it now – the decision on what to do will be made soon.

The next thing to do is to get involved with a group which will fight this. We’re currently working on a few ideas and will let you know soon. But in the meantime you should go to Blackout Ireland who have been quick off the mark with a plan to black out the Irish internet for a week from March 5th. The Digital Rights forum on has also been abuzz with this issue, as has this thread on their Broadband forum.

Having done that, let the Minister for Communications – Eamon Ryan – know the damage that this is likely to cause. Don’t just rely on the civil rights arguments – business impact is more likely to get attention. Point out that if ISPs are forced to become the (unpaid!) copyright cops of the music industry, it will drive up their costs and set a dangerous precedent for other Irish internet businesses. Would you choose to establish an internet start up in Ireland if you thought you’d be made responsible for policing what your users do? Ask him to intervene to prevent irreparable damage to the Irish internet. Eamon Ryan’s email addresses are and but a paper letter (Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, 29-31 Adelaide Road, Dublin 2) or fax ((01) 678 2029 or 2039) are more likely to get attention. You can also ring the Minister’s office on (01) 678 9807 – if you do, be polite and succinct. If you’re a constituent of his (in Dublin South) be sure to mention that fact and that this issue will influence how you vote in the next election.