Ireland’s Largest ISP Wants Country-Wide Three-Strikes Piracy Response

Ireland’s largest ISP, which once resisted calls to act against illegal downloaders, has told paidContent its competitors should now join it in threatening persistent offenders with disconnection.

“Eircom is of the view that these obligations are part of a role that all responsible companies must serve,” Eircom’s consumer managing director Stephen Beynon told me.

“A graduated-response protocol is now in place both in the UK and France, and Eircom believes that this protocol could be further enhanced with the introduction of an industry-wide solution that incorporates independent oversight, providing additional comfort for customers.”

In 2008, record labels, through the Irish Recorded Music Association (IMRA), sued Eircom to force it to monitor its network for illegal downloads. Eircom initially fought the action but, a year later, agreed an out-of-court settlement. It agreed to send, at labels’ behest, a series of warnings to customers seen downloading illegally, resulting in a seven-day suspension or year-long disconnection of broadband service (more details).

The labels have tried to wring the same result from other ISPs but without much success. But now Eircom is cheerleading the aim…

“We believe we have an obligation to ensure that the laws of the state, including copyright law, are upheld when illegal activity is brought to our attention,” Eircom’s Beynon told paidContent.

“These obligations must be balanced against our obligation to our customers and in particular, their rights to privacy.

“Eircom continues to monitor the policy and legal developments surrounding copyright infringement with the aim of securing an industry-wide solution.

“We think that it would be better for everyone if the industry and the rights-holders found a way to tackle this problem. It’s not going to go away. The current situation is not ideal but we could create something that moved the issue forward if we worked together. “

In December 2010, Eircom said record labels were accusing its customers of 1,000 illegal downloads per week.

Along with the warning action, Eircom also committed to launch its own legal music service, MusicHub. The Irish Times has said MusicHub “looks and feels like a contractual obligation, a ‘sure it’ll do the job’ service”. Eircom’s Beynon declined to disclose subscriber numbers to paidContent.

Elsewhere in the world:

  • The UK government in 2010 passed a law mandating that ISPs should send letters to accused customers at rights-holders’ request. That programme is now due to begin this year after opposition from two large UK ISPs, was finally rejected in court this March. The law contains back-stop measures to introduce technical measures like broadband speed blocks and disconnections if the letters do not reduce piracy.
  • In France, where a 2009 law introduced a provision to issue three warning letters before a court referral, the Hadopi agency charged with overseeing the scheme had by December sent 822,014 first-strike warnings, 68,343 second-strike warnings and has placed 165 alleged infringers under investigation for the third strike (via IP Brief).

    It has now begun sending the first of those cases to public prosecutors, which will consider whether to levy actions including a one-month account suspension and a €1,500 fine.

  • In the U.S., after arriving at a quiet compact with the entertainment industry last year, American ISPs are expected to start implementing a “six-strike” escalating enforcement scheme in July, leading to possibly “mitigation measures” including speed throttling. Some music companies, however, have already been using a private enforcement service that pressures ISPs to forward legal “settlement” offers. The offers promise immunity if a file sharer agrees to pay $10 for each alleged infringement.