Music industry wants to force Irish provider to install filters
Four major record labels have taken Irish internet provider Eircom to court in an attempt to force it to install traffic filters. According to media reports, this step was chosen to force the provider to prevent illegal downloads by technological means. The complainants – EMI, Sony BMG, Universal, and Warner – seem to regard the proceedings as a test for taking further action against other providers if they win this case against the largest Irish access provider.
The music industry had initially advised Eircom to install filters voluntarily to prevent copyright infringements. Eircom replied that there is no evidence of specific illegal activities of its customers and that there is no legal obligation to monitor network traffic. It added that the suggested filter solution is not compatible with its systems.
Chairman of the Irish Recorded Music Association Willie Kavanagh claims in a court document that Eircom is well aware of the use of its networks for large-scale copyright infringements. Since it is very time and cost-intensive to proceed against individual infringements it is the provider's duty to step in, he said. The document also stated that the Irish music market's volume dropped by 30 per cent from €146m in 2001 to €102m last year, and blamed the increased availability of broadband connections for this.
The Internet Service Providers Association of Ireland (ISPAI) had already spoken out against any obligation to filter or monitor network communication or block individual services or web pages in summer 2007, after a court forced Scarlet, a Belgian provider, to install filters . The association argued that it is impossible for third parties like access providers to determine which transmitted works are copyrighted and which aren't, The privacy of all personal and business communications is at stake, said the statement, since providers would have to monitor all incoming and outgoing bits and bytes and censor them if necessary.
The current move by the major labels was heavily criticised by civil rights organisation Digital Rights Ireland. Apart from perceived data protection issues, the organisation fears for users' freedom of expression, because inadequate filtering would also block legal contents. Their statement said this could damage the Irish knowledge society. The cost of implementing filtering solutions in Eircom's case was estimated at more than €3.3m by the civil rights activists. They said that clever users of sharing sites, on the other hand, could simply switch to encrypted peer 2 peer systems and bypass monitoring this way.
The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) already advocated forcing access providers across Europe to install filters and block P2P protocols in Brussels late last year – without initial success. (Stefan Krempl) /