Long Reads from the Sunday Times in Ireland
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Bad Anti-Piracy Law Emerging in Ireland

DSC_0182IN HIS WEEKLY Sunday Business Post column, Adrian Weckler publishes some of the thinking of the Irish government concerning online piracy and it's not good for innovation or technology. It appears that proposed measures will cede authority on the matter to judges who can decide what online content or services to block.

This could result in judgments that shut down web hosting and dynamic content services. Because of the pattern of lawsuits already filed by the recording industry and record labels in Irish courts, citizens of the Republic should expect a frontal assault on their fundamental rights similar to the kind of stifling effect the Stop Online Piracy Act would have in the United States.

I have first-hand experience as a third level educator, working to cultivate creative multimedia graduates at the Limerick Institute of Technology and can state without reservation that the legislation mooted by Minister of State Sean Sherlock will damage the growth of innovation in Ireland. It will also inject "intolerable uncertainty for businesses such as Google who might find themselves at risk of business threatening and unpredictable injunctions and will certainly deter others from setting up in Ireland," according to barrister TJ McIntyre. [2]

This kind of significant legislation deserves proper scrutiny and debate by Irish parliamentarians. Instead, it is being pushed through at an accelerated pace and that means the general public will have no idea what's going on with their rights of access to elements of digital culture.

TJ McIntyre points out [3]:

It is significant that Charleton J. in EMI v. UPC [2010] IEHC 377 referred to any legislative intervention being properly a matter for the Oireachtas. The Opinion of the Advocate General in Scarlet (Extended) v. SABAM (Case C-70/10) similarly referred to a need for legislation in this area to be "democratically legitimised" (at para. 113).

It would be undesirable in any event for a matter dealing with fundamental rights to be disposed of by way of secondary legislation. It is all the more undesirable in this case, however, given the vague and open-ended nature of the powers involved. This is, in effect, a case of delegation heaped on delegation - rather than rules governing blocking and other remedies being made by primary legislation, or even secondary legislation, they are instead effectively being made by delegation to the judiciary.

I'm visiting the constituency offices of three elected representatives about this issue before the end of January. This is bad law and a direct affront to the development of a vibrant Knowledge Economy in Ireland.

1. Previously -- "Long Reads from the Sunday Times in Ireland" yesterday includes coverage of Adrian Weckler's invetigative journalism.

2. TJ McIntyre -- "Adrian Weckler confirms Ireland's SOPA will be vague and open-ended" on IT Law in Ireland, January 22, 2012.

3. Digital Rights Ireland Copyright Submission, July 29, 2011.

4. Matthew Yglesia -- "Why should we stop online piracy" in the New Scientist, January 19, 2012.

5. Flickr photo from Steve Rhodes.

6. Boards.ie -- "Posssible Irish SOPA Law" thread.

7. Please sign the petition against SOPA in Ireland.


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