Irish ISP will disconnect Internet users after three unsubstantiated copyright claims

Eircom, a major Irish ISP, will now disconnect its users from the Internet if they receive three unsubstantiated copyright infringement claims from the record labels. The record labels are vowing to hold other ISPs to the same deal, wh‎ich is part of a court settlement in a lawsuit against Eircom. The UK has just rejected this measure, and initiatives to spread this across the EU and the US have died as well. Good thing, too -- as I've written before, this is an insanely dangerous and disproportionate proposal.

After all, you don't hear the record labels offering to have their Internet connections cut off if they send out three false copyright accusations. The Internet's a single wire that delivers freedom of speech, of assembly and of the press -- it's a conduit for civic engagement, health care, employment, education, distant family, love and life. Disconnecting people from the Internet on the basis of an unsubstantiated accusation, without a court order, without a chance to defend yourself against your accusers, without a chance to see and challenge the evidence -- it's positively medieval. Shame on Ireland -- so much for their high-tech economic miracle.

As part of the settlement, the record companies will supply Eircom with the IP addresses of all persons who they detect illegally uploading or downloading copyright works.

Eircom will then contact the subscribers directly and either warn them or terminate their account.

Willie Kavanagh, chairman of EMI Records, said he was delighted with the outcome and commended Eircom’s far-seeing approach.

During the court case it was claimed music piracy is costing record companies here up to €14 million a year.

Other ISPs contacted by The Irish Times last night could not confirm if they would implement the system. A spokeswoman for 3 Ireland, which has 130,000 mobile broadband customers, said it would be “happy to look into the matter”.

Ronan Lupton, chairman of Alto, which represents telecoms operators other than Eircom, said the agreement “is not one enforceable on the rest of the industry given the direct nature of the action against Eircom”.

Internet users face shutdown over illegal music downloads


  1. Someone is going to imitate a record company and instruct Eircom that ALL their customers have broken their phantom rules…

    This system isn’t just nasty, it’s kinda silly too.

  2. too late record companies, the cats not only out of the bag, it’s gone off to sort out whole new distribution paradigms which exclude record companies altogether.

  3. How come a smaller industry (music) can force a much bigger one (telecommunications) into practices that are so obviously bad for their business? I honestly fail to see how a ISP can be happy to implement a policy that will effectively harm their customers and move them away at amazing speed. Besides, the possibility of depriving citizens of a basic resource with complete disregard to their rights is just appalling.

  4. So who’s going to set up a new Irish record label for the sole purpose of claiming that the other record labels are downloading and have their connections shut off?

    BTW, I like the URL of this article.

  5. I wish the record companies would hurry up and forcibly remove that music from spotify. I will definitely start buying cds again so no need for that ad money.

  6. LarsRC beat me to it!

    It would be great so start a record label, then provide the IP addresses of MP’s who condone this sort of thing. :)

  7. So I can complain about to the record companies’ ISP and get them cut off too. Lol.

    They need the net more than I do. I can always use someone else’s wireless.

  8. Yet another reason to use Smart Telecom (assuming they won’t follow suit). When I moved here last year, they were the only ISP to offer uncapped internet access (moving from Germany I felt oddly transported into a distant, barbaric past), they have a support forum where their actual engineers post insightful and honest posts (and they will actually help you tweak your modem settings if you want better latency etc), and the amount of hassle they made me go through when I signed up with them was so minimal I hardly even noticed.

    Compare to NTL, for instance, the cable TV/internet provider here, who took a month to hook up our TV, sent us two set top boxes and three technicians and when nothing worked finally had a look on their side and found that they’d simply forgotten to enter our data into the system, who also tried to sell me their shitty, capped broadband every single time I had contact with their customer service team (even after I told them, in writing, that I am NOT interested in the service), who then SMSed me that they’re sending over a technician to set up our NTL broadband (I replied that if he did show up I’d not open the door), who then went on to attempt to send said technician four or five times despite my protests, and when I finally thought I’d weathered that storm they started CHARGING US FOR BROADBAND on our TV bills.

    Eircom, however, are much worse than that from what I hear.

  9. The music industry is representing its clients for the most part, correct? So, wouldn’t it be effective for the real players (the music artists) to band together through a professional organization to make it clear that they desire the unhindered distribution of their work via the internet? My feeling is that many of the artists are themselves in favor of the record companies actions. But I could be wrong. A somewhat related example with regard to books: Cory makes a case for the distribution of free digital books, and yet most of the publishing industry is not rushing forward to do as he has done. I suppose there is always lag time in a shifting paradigm.

  10. @#4 SWORM – My thoughts exactly. This makes any one user incredibly vulnerable to a DOS attack. That’s bad security practice and I would not do business with these clowns.

  11. “Disconnecting people from the Internet on the basis of an unsubstantiated accusation, without a court order, without a chance to defend yourself against your accusers, without a chance to see and challenge the evidence — it’s positively medieval.”

    Or to use a more contemporary example – it’s Digital Gitmo.

    Eircom’s effective monopoly over Ireland’s telecom infrastructure has been a significant drag on the rollout of broadband and our development into the knowledge economy that we aspire to become. Their involvement in this regressive measure is entirely unsurprising.

  12. The reason Eircom are going along with the labels demands, while all other ISPs (the world over) are telling them where to go, is apparently because Eircom ran web banner ad campaigns on torrent sites (they have hight traffic)

    This puts them in a more litigatious position that the others, so they bowed to the labels rather than risk lengthy legal bills when they have other impending problems on the horizon (under pressure from irish government for not meeting deadlines of rural broadband rollout).

    Hopefully this will amount to a token gesture by Eircom, nothing more – otherwise their customers will be fleeing to rival ISPs to avoid disconnection

  13. Mediacom has already implemented a similar policy.

    I recently received a DMCA notice from Mediacom, initiated by HBO over an episode of “True Blood.” The notice wasn’t clear on what further action I needed to take. I called Mediacom and was told that for the first offense, I didn’t need to do anything. However, a second offense would result in account suspension pending completion of “paperwork” provided by Mediacom. And, according to the employee, “You don’t even want to know about a third offense.” I pushed on that comment and was told that not only would my account be cancelled, I’d be added to an ISP blacklist that would, effectively, prevent me from getting Internet service from any other provider.

    It appears the only step in this process that doesn’t involve punitive action on the part of the ISP (on behalf of the copyright holder) is the first notice. In every subsequent step, the customer carries the nearly impossible burden of proving innocence.

    So, the intrusion into our online privacy in the name of copyright is already here. Commercialism trumps privacy.

  14. Eircom were losers (to 3) in the recently (last week) awarded tender for the rollout of rural broadband which as a weary ex-customer of 3 makes me marvel at how poor Eircom as as ISP actually is…too poor I suspect to actually implement this court decision in any serious way.

  15. Doesn’t surprise me. Eircom is a terrible, pathetic excuse for an ISP. Traffic caps and 7c/Mb charges for going over? What is this, 1992?

  16. All this takes is a single “heroic” person working at the record company to repeatedly report the IP addresses of a few MPs and get their internet connections shut off.

    Net neutrality will be restored within a week.

  17. Well it’s good to see the UK Mainland aren’t this stupid…oh wait.

    Yes we are.

    Yet again another person shoehorned into a position for which they are demonstratably ill suited making decisions on how corporations should rule the internet.

    Come the revolution…

  18. It’s worth noting that Eircom also control the traffic for almost all of the other ISP’s in Ireland. When you subscribe to any of the others, your traffic still ends up going through the Eircom network at some stage so in theory you could be disconnected for a breach even if you dont have broadband with Eircom.
    I’m Irish and the general feeling here is one of disgust at Eircom for being such wimps!

  19. Having worked as a engineer for Eircom, this appears nothing more than a head nodding exercise to get the court case off their backs. Anyone who has dealt with them will realise they don’t have the ability or will to enforce anything like this.

    It’s a PR exercise, as Eircom was previously Government owned, and the symbolism is important. They would be an easy push over. Watch all the PR from the record companies and Paul McGuinness from U2 (who promoted 3 strikes and your out) over then next few days. Coincident that Ireland’s largest band U2 is releasing their new album next month.

    But the precendent is scary…more in the ability of corporations to ‘monitor’ the traffic. Since when could corporations literally ‘wire tap’ our connections and monitor our personal data? This is akind to them opening our post. Bring on the encryption!

    But ‘Shame on Ireland’? Hey we’re not for this!! It was Eircom that folded under pressure rather than fight it…”Shame on Eircom’, but not shame on Ireland

  20. Serraphin, I was going to say something similar.

    Cory, you say that the UK has rejected this measure, but that’s not how I read it. Has something changed since the original announcement?

    As I understood it, the UK government told the ISPs that they had 6 months to voluntarily clean up their networks (by sending these kind of letters and bans to users who pirate), or else they would enact legislation to enforce the same thing..

    Has this been rejected now?

  21. Between this and Ryanair, the land of my ancestors is not dealing with the global recession very well.

  22. We should find out the top 200 people in the company, and top 200 people in government, and make three claims against each of them.

    I’m guessing you’d see a reversal in about two minutes. What an ass-clown of an idea.

  23. Quote from Eircom:

    …says its head of communications, Paul Bradley.
    “They wanted to get into our network, to implement a technological solution,” he told me a few minutes ago. “Instead, they’ve agreed they’re not getting that. They’re going to get a third party to go off and try and gather information themselves as to who is using our network to file-share illegally. It’s a key difference.”


    I don’t know if this “key difference” makes it any easier to swallow.

  24. @ SERRAPHIN RE: ‘UK Mainland’
    This article refers to the Republic of Ireland, so this law won’t extend to UK in anyway. Or, indeed, France, Thailand, Belgium or the USA, same as their laws don’t affect the UK MAINLAND either.

  25. I wonder how enforceable this is. The “evidence” of copyright infringement is collected by the record labels themselves, that should make it inadmissible. The EU have already ruled it illegal to deny someone’s free speech by taking away their internet access. Eircom won’t be passing on any customer details to the record companies, and they won’t be able to monitor your communications more than they already could.

  26. This is absolutely happening in the U.S. already.

    Cox Communications, for one, does this.

    This happened to my girlfriend, which is what sparked my interest and got me reading about it. They cut off her internet service without telling her why. She called up Cox and they said she had been caught sharing an HBO show via Bittorrent. Cox told her that they had sent her an email to her ISP email account, which of course everyone checks regularly. They reactivated her service and told her that all she had to do was “correct the problem”. Her boyfriend at the time had been the one sharing files, which already makes it somewhat annoying that she was the one punished.

    To make matters worse, he kept up the file-sharing, and they cut her off again. They told her that her service would be discontinued entirely if it happened again.

    For this reason, she disconnected her internet connection and we set up a new internet connection in my name instead. Unfortunately, we had to stick with Cox because there are no other providers available. When switching over my service, I made a point to ask the representative about this policy. She verified that it does exist.

  27. Serraphin: I understand the point of the linked article, I was more irritated by your use of the phrase “UK Mainland”, which implies that Ireland is in some way part of Britain. We may be an island to the left of you, but we generally position ourselves with the larger continent to your South.

  28. web access has become part of the bread of the people. The patricians will soon find repetitions of the corn-riots if they try to limit it. And any senator had best remember his head can end on a pike just as any other if the Republic is sufficiently aroused. Nay, hard times come and the Circus will be more important than ever the soothe the wrath of the mob. What matter a few merchants make a few sesterces less this year?

  29. Tak, true, but the Irish people have become fairly complacent in the past two decades of economic boom and liberal credit. The recent generation has no knowledge of the fight, or memory of the dark days – and it wasn’t so long ago.

    Some have been pushing since; shouting in the streets and being heard on the hill. But it will take some time and some suffering before we all have the fire in our hearts, that we once had, to push back against this kind of bullshit, and let them know who is really in charge.

    Speed that day.

  30. I stopped buying CDs when RIAA started suing and pursuing digital rights management. I never downloaded a song I had to pay for. I refuse to pay for music or anything else, unless the seller recognizes that it becomes my property when I buy it. I used to buy a lot of CDs, but found I’m quite satisfied listening to the ones I have, or just listening to the radio when I want to hear newer music. Go to hell, RIAA!

  31. First of all, I’ve been reading Boing Boing for about a year now, but never commented. So, Let me just you all rock! Boing Boing is the best blog I have ever read, and I read a lot of blogs!

    I live in Ireland and use Eircom. I was outraged to hear this today. I set up a bebo and facebook group for people to join and protest against this.


  32. Declan:

    Cue Eircom, joining your facebook group and jotting down names.. :)

    Sorry, it just always amazed me how people used their real names on FaceBook. Good luck with the groups though, hopefully you can get some weight behind you. I’ll be sure to pass the links on to my compadres.

  33. I wish they would start passing these laws. The first day it goes into effect, half a dozen moderately aware people could get every member of (congress/parliament/the governing body of your choice) or every (record exec/label employee/lobbyist) cut off from their Internet access, and the problem practically fixes itself.

    Keep letting individual ISPs do it, and it’s much worse; Joe CEO might be able to switch to a new ISP every time he gets DOSsed, but not everyone has a choice where they live.

  34. perhaps some Eircom executives need to be kidnapped and then conditioned to compulsively download music and movies….

  35. Shame on Ireland, Cory?

    This is a unilateral action by an Australian owned ISP operating in Ireland. I don’t know how you can blame the state.

  36. Serraphin,
    The phrase “UK Mainland” is seen as imperialist, I think the term you are looking for is Britain or maybe just The UK.

  37. The lack of provisions for people falsely accused (previous poster whose ex was the downloader) is the part that should have people up in arms. How are you going to prove a negative — someone snagging your unsecured wireless, or spoofing your IP?

  38. The bad thing is: the labels will keep trying, again and again, until either they succeed everywhere or they are stopped, legislatively, once and for all.

    They can’t stand that their business model is becoming obsolete. Dinosaurs go extinct all the time as techology advances, but THESE dinosaurs may have to be exterminated.

  39. the spoof/chaff defense then: flood the system with cases/accusations/reports etc of downloading. Accuse the entire populace.

  40. Cory says “shame on Ireland — so much for their high-tech economic miracle”?
    I’m really restraining myself on responding to that the way I really feel like because that would be the end of anyone reading further.
    Sounds like schndenfraude to me, and therefore…shame on Cory.
    Also, it sounds like ignorance of how we worked our arse’s off over here, the changes made, the decisions taken, language, EU import tax, cost structure, education etc. And that’s coming from someone (i.e. me) who is now unemployed for the past 6 months after being screwed by a US company.
    Yes this Eircom thing sucks. No need to argue that but your attack is a bit…general. I’ve worked in various aspects of IT here since the early 80s and the general opinion I’ve come across is that Eircom is the worst tech company in the country.
    But there’s little real discussion of tech issues here, and that’s the media as well as the politicians. If it wasn’t for Henry Porter in the Observer over there in the UK many issues would go uncovered there.
    I regularly email the media on tech issues that I care about and almost never get a response.
    But then we haven’t completely fucked over our citizens rights here like has happened in the UK & US (English wife, 25 years working for US & Canadian companies, before you ask, or not).

  41. @ #33 posted by Takuan , January 29, 2009 11:00 AM

    perhaps some Eircom executives need to be kidnapped and then conditioned to compulsively download music and movies….

    Hmm…. Manchurian … something. I just can’t find a good second word, but am open to suggestions…

  42. Is it a problem with Eircom kowtowing to record labels? Will the recording industry start suing cable companies for allowing illegal downloading to occur over their lines? Will satellite internet providers be sued for allowing pirated music to travel through their machines? Maybe everyone needs to tell the recording companies to start all the law suits they want. Their pockets are no longer as deep as they used to be. ISPs should make the case that they are no more responsible for policing the internet than telephone providers are for policing what is said by its users. The lawyer as THUG. Without the lawyers these companies could not bully like they do.

  43. Eircom has held back rollout of broadband in this country for years – it effectively has a monopoly. They held back the roll out of broadband in Dublin for years with red tape and nitpicking on regulations resulting in immense profits on their dial-up internet offerings. When broadband was finally rolled out, the one time nitpickers of the regulations regularly flouted them, attempting to crush competition through sharp business practice and outright illegal activity.

    Eircom should have been shutdown long ago, but sadly in Ireland we think that monopolies are normal – we had one tv channel, one radio station, one telephone company, one church (sorta…) and one race for far too long – that’s all changed now, but some of the old guard still rattle their sabres….

    Sadly we have had Charlie McCreevy and Mary Harney trying to bully the EU into accepting IP copyright laws for years – the MEP’s from our biggest political parties are firmly in the pockets of any big business willing to pay.

    BTW @serraphin:

    which century is this? – “UK Mainland” – are you serious?

    We are not part of the United Kingdom and never have been, apart from a brief period as a ‘protectorate’. British Isles yes, your ‘kingdom’ no.

  44. “UK mainland” is a pretty insulting thing to say to any Irish person btw, and I know plenty of Europeans from the continental “mainland” who also think so, as many of the posters prior to me have indicated.
    We’re an island, Britain is an island. Get over it.

    And for the likes of Takuan, would it be possible to discuss something Irish without dragging in stereotypes like “Fair folk” which, so you know, was just stupid and not funny.

  45. I have nothing productive to contribute other than the fact that I think the permalink sounded funny:


  46. would it be possible to discuss something Irish without dragging in stereotypes like “Fair folk” which, so you know, was just stupid and not funny.

    I’m sure that he was referring to carnies.

  47. Are the Republic of Ireland’s libel laws as plaintiff-friendly as the UK’s? Accusing somebody of piracy and getting their ISP to disconnect them sounds like libel and actual damages to me. In the US, the RIAA has been very aggressive about piracy lawsuits, often getting sloppy with IP addresses, or accusing the internet account holder when somebody else is doing the downloading (whether it’s their kid or apartment neighbor or wireless guest or whatever), or complaining about downloads that might be legally covered by fair use (at least in the US), and presumably complaints to an ISP don’t require the same level of proof as a lawsuit so they might easily be more aggressive about them.

    Almost all of my downloading has been fair use – though I supposed downloading that Metallica song because I was annoyed at how they were treating Napster might not have counted…

  48. Last year, I was with an ISP in Australia that did something similar. After receiving TWO copyright infringement claims, our internet was cut off. We were given the option to:

    a) Pay a $25 “administration fee” to turn it back on
    b) Write an apology letter promising we’ll never do it again or
    c) cancel our account (which includes paying a cancellation fee)

    Since we weren’t going to give them any money, my housemates and I wrote a carefully worded apology letter (never admitting we had done anything wrong, of course, but we would be more careful in the future with our “unsecured wireless”) and a few days later we had our internet back.

    Does that mean if you photocopy a book, and the publisher accuses you of stealing it, they’ll burn down the library? And they’ll only rebuild it until you write a letter of apology or pay a $25 “administration fee”?

  49. Administration fee, now were on to them.
    Why stop there this is Ireland were talking about….
    Wait till Eircom(´s owners) and the gov figure a way to fine people for this. The true Irish method, thru some third party company (as with new toll fines, parking, clampers ect) and as usual the majority will sit back and take it. Like darwinian sheep BLEEEH

    Im begining a career in the music “industry” and dont (yet) make reasonable cash to pay for ALL my music. If i did i´d have a big pile of Cd´s worth €20 each and no recording equipment . . .

    Im not telling my kids to stop downloading but im sure there are those who wil. . Which is denying them the wonder (and right) of unlimited free variety instead of the just the big company´s “products”.
    This “unsecured wireless” quote may come in handy, but untill a letter comes thru the door:
    ports open, Kad connected and mud on my licence plates as a drive thru the m50 toll on my way to northern IRELAND to do my shopping cheaper with the money i save on Cd´s xD
    When will we learn

  50. You know what I love? The spin words “costing the industry” “costing record companies” etc. Why are they spin words? Cost implies they are actually paying something, or losing something they already had. In fact, it’s simply that they are not getting a piece of revenue. I realize this is semantic, but when it comes to things like these propaganda and PR are really what make or break it. I like to say “Record companies allege they would make $xBillion more than they already make were it not for file-sharing.”

  51. …allege because the recording industry likes to pretend it is a constant that the people downloading mp3s would just as well purchase the music otherwise. (Obviously, because there’s no other way they are out any money – they didn’t produce the mp3s, they didn’t spend the time ripping cds.) That’s not the case. A large portion of mp3 downloads are ‘sample’, where a potential fan downloads a song to make a decision whether or not it’s worth listening to.

  52. When I moved to Ireland back in 2005, I was *shocked* to find that they actually had WORSE broadband internet and mobile phone options than Canada. It’s definitely improved since I lived there, but being stuck with 1 megabit Eircom DSL (there were no other broadband providers available where I lived) for the first year I lived there was pretty painful. At least I never encountered any overage charges, despite regularly far exceeding the 6gb or whatever paltry amount they said they were capping it at.

    And the story about NTL, from DanielZKlein above, is hilarious. I have a similar story – I moved house, and it took NTL *2 months* to figure out that there was actually nothing wrong with the cable connection at our apartment – after sending out 3 or 4 technicians, and replacing our digital box twice – rather, the problem was that they hadn’t entered our digital box’s info on their end. Of course, they might have realized this if, when I told them that our REGULAR cable was working just fine on the first support call to them.

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