Hello, world. I’m MacDara Conroy, and this is my blog.

Stop Ireland’s SOPA

When it rains, it pours.

In the wake of the SOPA/PIPA furore, up bubbles ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement which, as Forbes reports, contains provisions “just as pernicious as anything we saw in SOPA” and has already been signed or ratified by most of the developed world.

What are the consequences? Well, aside from enforcing food and drug patents that are crippling to the developing world, which is bad enough, the agreement also “bypasses the sovereign laws of participating nations, forcing ISPs across the globe to adopt [its] draconian measures.” Oy vey.

If you thought SOPA would break the internet, ACTA is much worse. And it could become law across the global economy without so much as a murmur of opposition.

That’s just super.

Meanwhile, and closer to home, people are kicking up a fuss about a sneaky little piece of legislation that’s been dubbed ‘Ireland’s SOPA’.

TJ McIntyre’s IT Law in Ireland blog has a concise overview of the Government’s plans to legislate for Irish courts to block access to websites accused of copyright infringement (and possibly other things) at their own discretion.

Two significant points: The law is being brought in by a statutory instrument, which means it doesn’t require passing scrutiny in the Dáil or Seanad, nor the approval of the citizenry. And the most recently available text was/is so vague as to be possibly in contravention of the European Convention of Human Rights. That’s lovely, isn’t it?

Where is all this coming from? Why, it’s the music industry — specifically the major labels who blame ‘illegal downloading’ for their ‘lost earnings’ (read: poor performance) over the last decade and who, rather than adapt their outdated business model to catch up with the rest of us in the 21st century, have decided that the Irish taxpayer should make up the shortfall and that the Government should generally do its bidding.

For more background on Ireland’s SOPA, Mark Little (@marklittlenews) of Storyful points to the Charleton judgement in the case of EMI v UPC in October 2010, which found in favour of UPC Ireland against the major labels who accused it of facilitating piracy by not blocking websites they want blocked (but only because current Irish law prevented doing the opposite).

The whole judgement is worth reading for a groan or few (there’s some weird confusion between The Pirate Bay and LimeWire, for instance) but be sure to see the last line of paragraph 13 (via @markhamnolan) for “the real reason the record industry is on its knees”. (A million quid to record an album? Where was the studio? A penthouse in the Burj Dubai?)

Little also links to a critique of said judgement by Conor O’Neill which highlights some pretty ridiculous claims regarding the numbers involved (none of which have been independently verified, of course) and raises serious questions about the level of knowledge and understanding of the digital realm among Ireland’s judges and legislators.

The big problem here, if it needs to be pointed out, is that the music industry lobby has too strong an influence over our elected representatives — who might be smart about a lot of things, but clearly haven’t a clue about this, and need to ask someone for advice, right? (And you thought you lived in a democracy? Ha!)

Back in the real world, O’Neill calls for a lobby group “that is there to fight for the interests and rights of internet users and technology businesses that operate on the internet”. It’s a point reiterated by Adrian Weckler (@adrianweckler):

The only single thing that can affect govt’s decision on ‘Irish SOPA’ law is a response from business community.

That may sadly be the case, but we internet users in Ireland can still make an effort.

Please consider signing the petition at StopSopaIreland.com (more information on the petition here; more than 7,000 signatures have already been added) and contacting your TDs, especially Minister of State Sean Sherlock (@seansherlocktd) and Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton (here’s a useful form letter, and some important points to highlight).

Even if it’s a futile exercise, at least we can say we did something from our limited position.
And to those reading from outside of Ireland: you too can make their voices heard, especially as such legislation would surely have a detrimental effect on our participation in the global digital industry — and your business in turn.