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Who will join the web block party? Ireland, Spain, USA?

By | Published on Thursday 12 January 2012


The boss of EMI in Ireland has pre-empted expected proposals from the Irish government to help rights owners crack down on piracy, urging the country’s politicians to not drag their heals on the new anti-piracy measures, but also airing concerns that the proposed statutory instrument will not deal with the record industry’s concerns.

The Irish government has been slow to introduce new laws to help copyright owners crack down on illegal file-sharing, though, as previously reported, the country’s largest ISP, Eircom, has been operating a three-strikes system sending warning letters to suspected file-sharers, as the result of an out of court settlement. But with Eircom’s rivals unwilling to introduce similar systems voluntarily, record labels have been calling on ministers to introduce some statutory measures for a while now.

As also previously reported, it’s thought the proposed statutory instrument will put in place a web-blocking injunctions system, rather than a forced graduated response programme that orders ISPs to warn individuals about their file-sharing ways. A number of countries have prioritised web blocking over three-strikes in their efforts to crack down on illegal file-sharing, with Spain introducing such a system as we speak, and US political types discussing something similar in Congress.

Despite Irish ministers pledging to help content owners, according to the Irish Times, EMI chief Willie Kavanagh has expressed concerns about the measures they are developing, though that’s possibly just because they won’t share plans with him ahead of any public announcement. Confirming he’d asked government officials to see the proposals but that they had so far not been forthcoming, the EMI boss said he was starting to believe their measures are “unlikely to satisfy the music industry’s requirement for injunctive relief”. Ministers are yet to respond to Kavanagh’s comments, though it is thought they will go public with their anti-piracy plans within the month.

Talking of anti-file-sharing measures in Spain and the US, such things are moving forward in the former, and still causing controversy in the latter. As previously reported, there were concerns a change in government in Spain could delay the so called Sinde Law, a high speed web blocking system, from getting off the ground, but the country’s new executive quickly announced that it would fast track the introduction of the new measures, which were approved by Spain’s parliament last year. The new injunctions process should be up and running by March.

Ironically, given Spain’s last government was partly motivated to push through the Sinde Law because of pressure from US officials who were critical of Spanish court rulings that said existing copyright law was unable to stop file-sharing, American efforts to introduce similar web-blocking measures are still ongoing, and if US law was decided by public opinion online then the previously reported Stop Online Piracy Act would be thrown out of Congress with no further discussion.

With that in mind, American Universal Music exec Jim Urie, who has been particularly vocal over the years about the need for new laws to help content owners crack down on piracy, has called on the music community to lobby Congressmen in support of the proposed web-blocking measures, which he claims have been misrepresented online and in some media coverage.

In an open letter, Urie says: “Legislation is pending in Congress that would address foreign websites engaged in piracy and counterfeiting, but it has been wildly mischaracterised in the media and blogosphere. The hyperbole has caused a lot of people to contact Congress in opposition to bills that have, in reality, been carefully balanced to ensure that we help bring law and order to the internet without jeopardising the communications tool that is vital to all our lives and livelihoods”.

He urges music types to counter the opposition by telling their political representatives they support the proposed legislation.

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