Irish ISPs Fire Back at 'Three-Strikes' Policy

DUBLIN, Ireland -- A coalition of Irish Internet service providers have said they won't cave in to a "three strikes" disconnection policy for users who engage in copyright violations, drawing the proverbial line in the sand over the matter.

The group Internet Service Providers in Ireland (ISPI) sent an open letter to the Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA), which vowed they will not violate the privacy of users under current laws. 

Unlike Eircom, Ireland's largest Internet provider, which has agreed to IRMA's three-strikes demands as part of a lawsuit settlement, other members of ISPI have said they will not roll over, according to The Register.

In February, IRMA, which represents EMI, Sony-BMG, Universal Music and Warner, sent letters to Irish ISPs and other Internet companies in the country. The organization called for the implementation of a three-strikes rule similar to one called for in France, and also ordered the blocking of websites containing illegal files or access to those files, such as the notorious Pirate Bay.

ISPI's response letter, approved by its board of directors after consulting members, questions the legal actions taken by IRMA.

"There is no evidence of wrongdoing by Internet service providers," the letter said. "These actions could impact on user privacy, damage the development of new Internet services and hurt Ireland's standing as an e-Commerce hub. The ISPAI and its members have never condoned the use of its member services for theft of copyrighted works of any kind, and continue to operate within the existing legal framework, which has provisions for taking action where appropriate."

The organization goes on to say it initiated meetings with the music industry more than two years ago and record  labels did not follow-up.

"Irish copyright law provides an avenue for the pursuit of people breaching copyright through the courts. ISPAI members will continue to cooperate fully within these existing legal parameters," the letter said.

With regard to monitoring users and providing information to music and other entertainment businesses, ISPAI commented, "Privacy of user communications is protected in European and Irish legislation. ISPs can not be expected to ignore these merely because it does not suit another private party. To do so would breach the privacy of our users as well as having serious implications for the continued location of international e-business in this country and the jobs these generate."

The letter attacks the recording industry and suggests it's merely playing catch-up with technology it chose to ignore for too long.

"ISPAI is disappointed that the great potential of the Internet, to provide opportunities to connect with users in new ways and develop new business models, is being missed by the music recording industry," the letter said. "The Internet has revolutionized countless other services where consumers have benefited from any-time accessibility, wider choice and reduced prices."

Members of ISPAI, according to its site, include BT Ireland, O2, Verizon Ireland, Vodafone, Clearwire, Google Ireland, UPC Ireland and Eircom.

A three-strikes policy debate continues in Britian, France and other nations.