Thursday, July 14, 2005

Irish High Court Orders Release IDs File-Sharers

The Irish High Court has ordered several ISPs to release the names of 17 file-sharers in a July 8th decision. The Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA) will now offer the file-sharers a settlement, and if not accepted, pursue the alleged copyright infringements in court.

The run-up to this decision is interesting, as IT Law in Ireland pointed out, quoting the Irish Times:
The High Court was told yesterday that Eircom and BT are not opposing the "substantive" proceedings by four music companies aimed at securing the names of persons who have uploaded thousands of music tracks onto file-sharing networks.

The proceedings could lead to actions for damages being brought against those persons.

Yesterday, while not opposing the action, John Gordon SC for BT Communications Ireland Limited said he wanted to make submissions as to how the court should exercise its discretion regarding the form of order in the case. It is believed those submissions will relate to how the rights of the music companies should be balanced against consumers.


Mr Gordon said he proposed to file an affidavit by tomorrow for the purposes of assisting the court as to how its should exercise its discretion in the matter.

His client was not opposing the proceedings, but believed the submissions would assist the court in exercising its discretion in the correct manner in relation to how consumers were affected.
In plain words: the ISPs involved, Eircom and BT, did not put up a legal fight for the privacy rights of their customers. Instead, they chose for legal cooperation, and tried to influence the decision with "an affidavit". I haven't seen this affidavit, but one might think that the ISPs weighed their own possible liability against the interests of their customers, with the last loosing out. This stands in contrast to the recent Dutch court case, which resulted in ISPs not having to hand over their customer's IDs.

Not just users' (privacy), but also the law in general looses here. With claims uncontested and not put to the test, the music industry may have reached a fine result, but it provides little more clarity on the current legal standing of file-sharing issues. A missed chance. A question is now if customers will find a chance to hold their ISPs liable for putting up no opposition.
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Later The Irish-Dutch connection is a bit stronger: according to European Digital Rights (EDRI) both the Irish and Dutch music industry organisations used the services of the American company MediaSentry. For the Dutch judge this was (under Dutch regulations) unacceptable. The Irish High Court apparently has less dificulty (maybe due to a lack of opposition) to make another judgement . According to the Irish Times (June 9th) it
"noted an undertaking by the record companies that the information would be used only for the purpose of seeking redress for alleged infringement of the copyright of sound recordings and granted the order on that basis."
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Thru Afterdawn


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