ISPs say Eircom and Big Four music deal could hit potholes

30 Jan 2009

The industry group representing 12 independent telecoms operators in Ireland says Eircom’s settlement with the Big Four record labels – unprecedented in history – could run into a quagmire over privacy rights.

The chairman of the Alternative Licensed Telecoms Operators (ALTO) group Ronan Lupton said that if a test case was brought by a group by Digital Rights Ireland (DRI), for example, issues over breaches of privacy over IP addresses could be raised.

ALTO’s members include BT Ireland, Magnet Networks, NTL, Chorus, Smart Telecom, Budget Telecom, Cable & Wireless, Colt Telecom, Complete Networks, Digiweb, ESB Telecoms, Verizon and 3 Play Plus.

Lupton said that Wednesday’s agreement between Eircom and the record labels was a direct action against Eircom and is not enforceable on Ireland’s other broadband providers.

“While we obviously do not condone illegal downloading or any illegality on or over the internet, we firmly disapprove of any draconian measures that would compromise the privacy, speed or services offered to broadband users. We do not need measures to further impede the development of next-generation broadband in Ireland,” Lupton stated yesterday.

The Big Four record labels Sony, EMI, Universal and Warner– via the Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA) – took Eircom to court as the largest ISP in Ireland with 40pc market share to ensure technology was put in place to catch illegal peer-to-peer (P2P) music sharers. They estimated that over six years their earnings from CD sales fell from €146m to €102m per annum due to file sharing.

On Wednesday, the parties agreed on a joint approach under which they will work closely together to end the abuse of the internet by P2P copyright infringers.

The record companies will use a service called DetecNet, which poses as a P2P file sharer to target the offending downloaders and supply Eircom with the IP addresses of suspected copyright thieves.

Eircom said it will embark on a graduated ‘three strikes and you’re out’ process. It will inform broadband subscribers that their IP address has been detected infringing copyright, warn them that unless it ceases they will be disconnected, and if they fail to comply they will be disconnected.

The record companies have agreed that they will take all necessary steps to put similar agreements with other ISPs in Ireland.

But last night Ronan Lupton of ALTO told siliconrepublic: “We’re not party to the agreement with Eircom – we don’t know the details of agreement, But neither do we condone criminality on the internet. We aren’t party to this agreement until we have met with the music industry.”

Lupton said ALTO had met with the music  industry a few years ago and suggested a regulatory model to combat illegal downloading. “But it wasn’t taken up and they went to court to pursue downloaders.”

He said that while ALTO’s members aren’t subject to the agreement, they aren’t hostile to engaging in talks with IRMA.

“Fundamentally, we are adopting a wait and see approach, and right now we are not party to agreement. Suffice to say, we are not in favour of any breach of law or anything that goes on over the internet that’s illegal.

“Our hands are tied on it right now, but we are in favour of discussing matters with the music rights holders,” Lupton told last night.

By John Kennedy