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Sky to introduce three-strikes anti-piracy system in Ireland

By | Published on Wednesday 10 October 2018


Remember three-strikes? That was the big talking point ten years ago, wasn’t it? Internet service providers would send out increasingly stern letters to copyright infringing customers telling them to stop fucking infringing copyright. The hope was they might stop fucking infringing copyright, illegal file-sharing being very much in fashion at the time.

In the main, ISPs didn’t like the idea of sending stern letters to their customers, so usually court orders or new laws were required to force them. That new law was passed in the UK back in 2010, though the internet sector then managed to procrastinate so long that by the time some polite ‘don’t nick our stuff’ emails were finally sent out, the music industry was too busy shouting about YouTube and the value gap for anyone to notice.

However, in Ireland three-strikes is still a talking point, with Sky agreeing to join its competitors in sending out some of those stern notes to any old timers still illegally downloading music rather than just relying on a steady stream of unlicensed tunes on YouTube.

Tel co Eircom voluntarily agreed to start sending out warning letters to suspected file-sharers all the way back in 2010 as part of a legal settlement with the Irish record industry. The labels then spent years trying to force one of Eircom’s key competitors, UPC, to do the same. That required a legal battle in the courts, which the record industry finally won in 2015, six months before UPC rebranded as Virgin Media Ireland.

Sky only entered the Irish broadband market in 2013. In the UK, where it has been an ISP much longer, it has generally been more amenable to demands by the entertainment industry to take steps to combat piracy of its network. Because it is in the entertainment industry itself via its broadcast division and therefore has a vested interest in tackling infringement.

Nevertheless, it has taken a while for Sky to commit to operating a three-strikes system in Ireland akin to those run by Eircom and Virgin. The matter has now reached the country’s Commercial Court, though Sky isn’t actually fighting the music industry’s efforts to force three-strikes upon it.

Rather, according to reports, the broadband provider has told the music industry that it needs a court order instructing it to introduce the anti-piracy system. Presumably because some have claimed in the past that three-strikes raises privacy and data protection issues, but if a three strikes system is court ordered it can’t be sued over those concerns.

The Irish Recorded Music Association initiated legal proceedings to that effect earlier this year and has now told the court that Sky has formally agreed to introduce a system for sending warning letters to suspected copyright infringers. To that end Sky itself did not attend the court hearing, saying it was happy for a court order to be issued.

According to the Irish Examiner, the record industry’s legal rep, Jonathan Newman, insisted that three-strikes – what the industry tends to call ‘graduated response’ – had so far proven successful. Systems of this kind usually involve some sort of threat being made in later letters, commonly involving the suspension or termination of internet access, or the handing over of contact information to copyright owners so that they can sue for such a sanction.

However, Newman told the court, letter receivers tend to comply once they know their piracy activity has been seen and that – as a result – no disconnections have ever actually been sought. Judge Robert Haughton responded by providing the record labels with the court order Sky said it required, adding that “the big stick does the job”.