Court in Finland orders ISPs to disconnect file sharers

30 Jun 2011

In what could be a sign of what could happen here once changes to copyright laws are made, a court in Finland has issued orders for ISPs to disconnect three subscribers from the internet.

It emerged in May that a group of record labels had initiated steps to have The Pirate Bay censored in Finland. According to TorrentFreak, the Copyright Information and Anti-Piracy Centre (CIAPC) and the local branch of the IFPI announced they had filed a lawsuit at the District Court in Helsinki.

The legal action targeted Elisa, one of the largest ISPs in Finland, demanding that the internet provider stops providing subscriber access to The Pirate Bay.

CIAPC discovered five internet connections which were making available thousands of music tracks on file-sharing networks. In all cases, the file sharer was either an actual internet subscriber or a family member of a subscriber.

Without the sending of a so-called “first strike” letter, the respective ISPs of the subscribers in question are now required to completely disconnect their infringing customers from the internet.

Copyright infringement and the spectre of injunctions for Irish ISPs

In Ireland, efforts by the music industry to get other operators to fall into line and implement a ‘three strikes’ system met with defiance by broadband provider UPC, in particular, which won a High Court victory in October last year.

Following the UPC victory in October, the judge, Mr Justice Peter Charleton, held that laws seeking to identify and disconnect copyright infringers were not enforceable in Ireland, regardless of the record companies’ complaints.

Last month, a process of reform of Ireland’s copyright regime was kick started again by the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton, TD, in a move he says is aimed at maximising the potential of Ireland’s digital industries.

Bruton is instigating a review of the Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000 which he says will identify any areas of the legislation that might be considered to create barriers to innovation in the digital environment. A deadline for submissions to the Department of Enterprise’s review of the Copyright Act has been extended to 29 July.

ISPs fear that changes to Ireland’s copyright legislation will result in a raft of injunctions that will block up the court system and ultimately force them to disconnect customers accused of illegal file sharing.

In the UK, BT and Talk Talk in recent weeks lost a judicial review of the Digital Economy Act which requires the UK government to send legal letters to thousands of illegal downloaders. The legislation will have cost Ofcom and internet providers stg£6m by the time the Digital Economy Act is implemented next year.

Eircom is so far the only ISP to implement a three-strikes system in accordance with an agreement with the music industry in Ireland.

However, the operator’s error in sending the wrong 300 people cease and desist or ‘first strike’ letters has resulted in a complaint reaching the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner which confirmed to it is investigating the matter from the perspective of Ireland’s Data Protection Acts.

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