Telcos and ISPs relieved at deferral of copyright legislation

24 Feb 2011

The statement by the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation that she will not be signing changes to copyright legislation until the consultation with the telecoms industry has ended, by which time it could be a matter for a new minister, has been welcomed by the industry. reported yesterday that a Statutory Instrument was being rushed through in the final days of Government that would grant judges the power to grant injunctions against ISPs in relation to copyright infringement cases.

Sources indicated that such a Statutory Instrument was about to be signed into law to the bewilderment of the digital media industry, including major global internet brands that have located here.

In October, UPC was successful in a court case over the implementation of a ‘three strikes’ rule against illegal downloaders which were sought by the music industry’s big four labels, EMI, Universal, Warner and Sony. The judge presiding the case, Mr Justice Peter Charleton, held that laws seeking to identify and disconnect copyright infringers was not enforceable in Ireland, regardless of the record companies’ complaints.

Yesterday, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation first told that it had sought the advice of the Attorney General on the matter and that consultations are in train with the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.

This was followed this afternoon by a denial by Minister Mary Hanafin TD that she intended to sign a Statutory Instrument amending the Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000.

Hanafin said she would expect that proper consultation will take place when the department and the next minister have a clearer view of the best way forward on this issue.

Wider consultation needed with digital sector

IBEC Group TIF (Telecoms and Internet Federation) welcomed the clarification by the minister and said extensive consultation is required before any changes to copyright legislation occur.

TIF director Tommy McCabe said: “Copyright law is a complex area and the telecoms industry was deeply concerned at reports that rushed legislation was to be introduced to force the industry to police the area of illegal downloading from the internet.

“Extensive consultation should take place between the incoming government and the telecoms industry before any legislation is finalised.”

The group representing various internet service providers in Ireland, the ISPAI, warned that had legislation on the matter been rushed through, the implications for Ireland’s emerging digital industries could have been disastrous.

Paul Durrant, chief executive of the ISPAI, said this legislation, which has been sitting around for quite some time, is important to a number of industries. “Copyright law applies to books, videos, music and even works that might inadvertently contain copyrighted material that some user may have put up to share on Facebook or YouTube.

“What worries us is that if something not properly thought through and without consultation was hurried through it would have had serious implications for the many global internet companies that have located in Ireland.

“It would have been awkward and meant greater costs for locating in Ireland than in other countries. And given that this country is trying very hard to drive a recovery through the digital economy, it is only right to protect this aspiration and ensure that Ireland is a good place for business.

“We have to address the issue of copyright infringement in a consultative manner and not on a piecemeal basis and not by trying to hide changes.”

Durrant said that so far the ISPAI has not been part of any consultation of any description on changes to copyright legislation and he has spoken to other members of the telecoms industry who have not been contacted in consultation about any changes.

“No official consultation has been made with ISPs. My fear is that people would have rushed through damaging legislation without realising or considering the implications for Ireland’s digital industries,” Durrant said.

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