So the proposed legislation dubbed ‘Ireland’s SOPA’ has been enacted into law by Statutory Instrument, despite vociferous opposition from that section of the public clued in to such things. And now the junior minister responsible, Seán Sherlock, has launched a public consultation that, he says, could lead to new laws which would supersede the current one.
Leaving aside the notion of holding a public consultation after the proposals in question were already made law through the back door, we see that Minister Sherlock has made a gesture of sorts to his critics, calling on “those people who were exercised by the statutory instrument” to “engage in the very nature of copyright [and] engage on the issues within the consultation paper”.
If everybody calls off the dogs, as it were — if everybody engages constructively on it — then I think we can reach compromises around the challenges between ISPs, the content holders, the copyright holders.
That’s some rich talk from Sherlock, especially considering the position of his party and Dáil colleague Emmet Stagg, as related by No SOPA Ireland’s Ian Bergin. Talk about refusing to engage constructively:
I am just back from visiting with Emmet Stagg [who is the TD] for Kildare North. I am very worried when politicians like Deputy Stagg refer to the slew of emails from myself and others on #SOPAIreland as “vandalism” and that the majority of people who are “kicking up about it are probably pirates themselves”.
He also said for e-mails like that of #SOPAIreland, they more or less “delete them” as he himself prefers to deal with old fashioned snail mail letters from his constituents.
As I pointed out to him, it is disturbing when a member of one of the Government parties feels that a tool of the “knowledge economy” and “smart economy” is used by people who are the ones fuelling the economy right now to contact their TDs, and their chosen method of communication, which is something TDs encourage and should encourage, is invalidated upon arrival without merit.
That’s the situation we’re dealing with, people. How can we have any kind of constructive dialogue when the suits at Leinster House are determined to do things their own way, everyone and everything else be damned?
Back to Minister Sherlock, who’s clearly hung up on the language being used to describe the issues at stake:
The very people who are lobbying against the SI called it ‘SOPA’… It was not SOPA. And already on Twitter people are using the #SOPAIreland hashtag, which is a complete nonsense. It has nothing to do with SOPA.
He’s correct about that. But only in the strictest, most literal sense. He knows damn well what people mean when they talk about ‘Ireland’s SOPA’, but he’d rather play language games than actually engage with the issue. Here we have a politician, of all people, criticising his opponents for using rhetoric? Imagine!
Of course the SI isn’t SOPA. But it is equivalent in that its abuse — and by golly, it will be abused — will result in the same chilling effects that SOPA would have had, if the US Congress had not seen the modicum of sense to shelve it. That’s why people are genuinely concerned. And that’s what Minister Sherlock has not given any reassurance about.
Meanwhile, the response from the Stop SOPA Ireland campaign is one of exasperation and desperation, not only at the fact that the Government ignored a petition more than 80,000 signatures strong, but also at knowing that this legislation could have been written in a fairer way:
It is a bad decision because there was an alternative wording of a Statutory Instrument proposed by Catherine Murphy TD and Stephen Donnelly TD which the minister accepted met all his own policy requirements arising from the AG’s advice, made explicit the rights affirmed by the ECJ caselaw and allowed two years for primary legislation to be drafted. But despite all this, he wilfully stuck to his own flawed legislation. This is not intelligent or modern governance.