Mar 7, 2009

Irish censorship

There's nothing really new about record companies pushing their weight around. Since Napster they have shown themselves as the one greediest pond scum corporations that are making billions on the back of others.

Bloody Metallica it's their fault and it's especially poor-spirited considering that they only got famous because of bootleg tapes but that's a whole other story.

Now IRMA have taken the fight to the ISPs in an illegal attempt to block Irish internet users from accessing certain sites. They are focussed on The Pirate Bay where in addition to legal music, one can torrent open source ebooks, computer programs and applications and other material. Now the issue of blocking legal content is serious enough but what is truly disgusting, to my mind, is the censorship issue.

We currency live in a democracy that is supported by rule of law for the most part. It is completely inappropriate that an outside interest group should attempt to control interest usage for a state. This is not China. Ireland cannot legally censor internet content and that this action is being enacted by Eircom is disgusting. Our broadband rollout scheme is possibly the worst in Europe. I've had better and more reliable connections in developing countries. The idea that, in addition our pathetic rollout, we add censorship beggers belief. What industry will set up in Ireland with internet censorship?

Record companies tried the same thing in Italy a few years ago

There was a very similar case in Italy where ISPs were forced to block The Pirate Bay’s website after pressure from the music industry (the result was that Italian traffic to the site increased by 5%) . The ban was judged illegal in court under European Directive, 2000/31 CE which is also applicable in Ireland.

A letter published recently on Digital Rights shows that IRMA have no qualms about blocking gigabytes of legal material to get at the tiny fraction of illegal downloaders.

Eircom has agreed that it will not oppose any application our client may make seeking the blocking of access from their network to the Pirate Bay or similar websites …

Please confirm that Blacknight will also work with the record industry to end the abuse of the internet by peer to peer infringers … in the event of a positive response to this letter it is proposed to make practical arrangements with Blacknight of a like nature to those made with eircom.

What's next? Will critical blog posts be censors? Will bloggers we on the run from the government? Damien Mulley puts it best:

So first they’ll start with the Pirate Bay. Then comes Mininova, IsoHunt, then comes YouTube (they have dodgy stuff, right?), how long before we have because someone quoted a newspaper article or a section of a book? And don’t think they’ll stop there too, any site that links to The Pirate Bay and the others on the hate list will probably be added to the list too…

I’m sure the business case for eircom was they didn’t want any more costly High Court actions with McDowell biting at their legs on the command of the music industry but this is going to open up a can of worms with IRMA demanding more and more attacks on how people surf the net, this is what it is in my view an attack on our freedom to read, our freedom to write, our freedom to move around the web. All so a very rich but rapidly becoming poor group of luddites can feel better for seeing the future and trying to fight it.

And of course the costs of communications with IRMA and of the filtering is going to be passed on to the consumer. The cost of blocking a single site will be almost nothing I suppose but as more sites get added and as the arms race between the pirates and the ISPs escalates, then it’ll become complicated and complicated costs more. So again the majority get to pay…

Most pirates know how to get around these bans. It doesn't take much technical knowledge to set up a proxy server or to reroute the signal. The general public is not familiar with Pirate Bay and have no idea what a torrent is - I just polled a couple of internet users. This attempt by IRMA to block sites is unlawful and ultimately useless and shame on Eircom for agreeing to the illegal censorship.

Take action as indicated here. I've already sent off my letters.

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