While Irish and Italian citizens participated in the protests against the US SOPA / PIPA bills, it seems that their own Governments are in the process of introducing very similar measures – perhaps even harsher.
The Irish government is acting in the wake of a court case (EMI and Others Vs UPC) where record companies attempted, without success, to force an ISP to take measures against file-sharing on its network; The High Court’s ruling was far from a vindication of the rights of ISPs and websites to operate as they currently do, but rather an admission that there’s no basis in current Irish law to support the requested granting of injunctive relief to the recording companies.
The full ruling on that landmark case is available here and makes for interesting and often – unintentionally, no doubt – amusing reading, peppered as it is with terms like ‘the latestmovie blockbuster, to use the appropriate colloquial terminology’ and ‘anything other than a scandal’ (Myles Na gCopaleen would have a field day with it were he alive and well) .
The ruling takes full account of the record companies woes, though pays very little attention to how the internet has revolutionised the music industry from the point of view of the independent artist, and how this may well be affected by the various legislative measures being lobbied for by ‘the entertainment industry’ .
The upshot of the ruling is that the Minister for Research and Innovation Sean Sherlock TD intends to respond with legislation probably in the form of a ministerial order (which won’t be debated or voted on), the wording of which remains a mystery at the moment but which will be introduced before the end of January.
“we, a hosting provider, could be held liable for a copyright infringement that we knew nothing about. Of course it goes further than that, as it could be (ab)used and force us, and others in industry, to either block access (filter) your internet connection or disable access to entire websites and domains. Or taking it further, if a rights holder found an infringing photo on Facebook they could demand that the site be blocked!”
At the same time, in Italy, a member of the right-wing party La Lega Nord who until recently were in Government, but are currently in opposition, has proposed measures similar but more extreme measures to the SOPA bill. MP Giovanni Fava, who met with congressman Lamar Smith (one of the sponsors of SOPA), has claimed in comments published in the Corriere della Sera, that he’s been clearly told by American politicians that unless Italy introduces measures to curb software piracy that import levies on goods from Italy will remain high.
Under Fava’s proposed amendment to a bill implementing various EU directives, copyright holders would be able to send a complaint directly to ISP’s and hosting providers ordering them to take down material infringing copyright – no courts would be necessary or authority to judge the validity of the claims. Fava has argued that the ISP and/or Hosting services have the right to decide for themselves the validity or otherwise of any request, but the legal implications seem clear. On receiving a complaint ISPs and hosting providers will, probably, simply accede for fear of being held legally responsible.
The good news is that Fava himself has admitted that, in the wake of the SOPA protests and that bill’s shelving, his amendment looks likely to be rejected. What’s worrying, though, is the very obvious single-mindset being adopted by legislators internationally, to force through SOPA measures in one form or another.
And that’s without even getting into ACTA, which it seems has received precious little press in comparison with SOPA/PIPA.
Celebrations about the shelving of SOPA / PIPA then look very premature.
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