Irish Govt to review copyright laws – Sherlock confirms

29 Feb 2012

The Irish Government is to conduct a review of the existing copyright laws, Innovation Minister Sean Sherlock, TD, told today. The recent outcry over a statutory instrument to amend the 2000 Copyright Act served to indicate the urgent need to review legislation and if necessary compose a new set of copyright laws.

Sherlock today confirmed the statutory instrument had been signed. However, he also launched the next stage of the Copyright Review Committee to review Ireland’s existing copyright legislation aimed at removing barriers to innovation.

A consultation will be launched that for the first time will include an internet forum on the matter.

Speaking with, Sherlock said that if the committee decides new legislation is required then the Government will embark on that course of action.

Sherlock said the key opportunity is to make Ireland a leader in the handling of copyright and intellectual property issues and at the same time be sensitive to the economic challenges and opportunities of the digital age. The Government, he said, does not want to issue proscriptive measures, at the same time it wants to allow the internet industry to flourish and help protect the rights of right holders.

In the aftermath of the SOPA/PIPA furore in the US, many fear the statutory instrument would put ISPs at the mercy of the Irish courts in disputes over illegal downloads and result in unpopular three-strikes rulings.

The furore surrounding the change to the Copyright Act 2000 led to more than 80,000 people signing a Stop SOPA Ireland petition. It goes back to a 2010 case between EMI and UPC where Mr Justice Peter Charlton noted certain EU directives hadn’t been properly transposed to Irish law.

Speaking with this afternoon, Sherlock said his motives for the review are clear: “My main aim here is the stakeholders out there would ultimately reach a compromise.

“If we can legislate on compromises reached through this endeavour, if that means changing existing copyright legislation then I’ll keep an open mind about that.

“But I’ll also need an open-minded approach from both the rights holders and the internet community and industry.”

Sherlock said public involvement is key. “The Irish Internet Association (IIA) and its stakeholders are making themselves ready to facilitate online discussions around this that will be moderated but that will hopefully result in a common position and positive impact on legislation. Downstream, if we need to work on new copyright laws, then we’ll do so,” Sherlock said.

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