Calls to make internet a human right under Irish law

15 Apr 2011

Ireland has been called on to have the ‘internet enshrined as a human right’ under its laws, following a decision this week by one of Europe’s highest-ranking judges to decide against ISPs using content-filtering technology.

Pedro Cruz Villalón, Advocate General to the European Court of Justice (ECJ), this week found against a verdict that said Belgian ISP Scarlet should filter out copyright-infringing content from its network.

The decision came in the same week that the outgoing government in New Zealand pushed through a ‘three strikes law’ aimed at punishing copyright theft. The move means judges could impose injunctions against telcos and internet service providers, requiring them to filter their networks.

Ireland narrowly escaped a similar fate in recent months as it emerged Statutory Instruments were being tabled and could have been signed by the outgoing Government.

ALTO, the organisation representing licensed telecoms operators in Ireland, welcomed the advocate-general’s decision and called for Ireland to transpose internet access as a human right into Irish law.

“The Advocate General’s opinion is very encouraging in the context of his finding that internet filtering infringes fundamental rights. We await the final ruling from the European Court of Justice on the matter.

“In a week where we have seen the outgoing administration in New Zealand push through ‘three strikes’ law in its dying days, which ALTO believes is wrong, and indicative of a massive democratic deficit, we restate precisely what we have said all along, that ‘three strikes’ law and private filtering deals infringe users’ fundamental rights. This view has been deemed correct by Europe’s most senior jurist.”

The internet as a fundamental human right in Ireland

ALTO’s chairman Ronan Lupton said ALTO respects the rights of intellectual property holders.

“However, communications companies should not be held accountable in circumstances where intellectual property rights holders have blatantly failed to move with the times and protect their own business models.

“Internet access is now a fundamental right and has been enshrined in EU law. The new Telecoms Reform Package containing this fundamental right is to be transposed into Irish law on 25 May.”

“It is incumbent on all stakeholders to endeavour to strike a reasonable and lawful balance between users, communications companies and intellectual property producers’ rights.

“This balance may well be struck through collaborative engagement rather than expensive and mostly pointless litigation,” Lupton said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years