Irish Gov't Trying To Sneak Through Massive Copyright Law Changes Via Questionable Legal Process

from the this-won't-look-good dept

Looks like the lobbyists have gotten to another government. Conor Lalor points us to the news that the Irish government is using a really questionable process to rush through massive copyright law changes today. As you may recall, last fall, a court recognized that Irish copyright law didn’t mandate three strikes. This is perfectly sensible. Three strikes is a really dangerous concept that involves limiting basic due process, and turning ISPs into copyright cops for an entertainment industry that refuses to adapt.

However, the Irish government has responded to that legal ruing by trying to sneak three strikes into the law with no notice and no public discussion. Apparently, the current government is in its “final days,” and the current group of politicians is pushing to get this done before the government changes over. Of course, a huge change to copyright law is supposed to involve public discussion and debate and a real vote. But that’s not happening here. I don’t fully understand the way the Irish government works, but this sure sounds like trying to sneak a massive copyright law change through a backdoor loophole:

The legislation is expected to be sanctioned by the present Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation Mary Hanafin TD before Friday.

A statutory instrument is secondary legislation — only the Oireachtas can pass primary legislation — and as such is the only way changes can be made to legislation in such a tight timeframe.

Considering how controversial three strikes is, it’s rather stunning that elected official in Ireland would sneak through such an anti-consumer change. It’s also going to massively damage the view of Ireland as a “tech hub,” since this sort of law is simply a transfer payment type of law, passing off one industry’s failures to adapt on the tech industry. The article also quotes an Irish law expert who notes how this move seems to violate basic procedural rules for establishing new laws in Ireland:

Internet law expert TJ McIntyre says the legislation is premature in light of the Taoiseach promising a review of Irish copyright for the digital age. He said it is also premature in terms of a case taking place in the European Court of Justice between Belgian publishers group SABAM V Tiscali (Scarlet).

“What’s happening in Europe is similar litigation over the obligation of ISPs to conduct filtering and the question is what does European law require regarding injunctions against ISPs?

“To my mind, you can’t legislate in Ireland until we’ve seen the judgment from Europe.

“There are also procedural issues — normally, if you legislate you have to have completed a regulatory impact assessment beforehand, as well as a public consultation. Also, if there’s a breach found in a law then it would be normal to discuss it with the European Commission,” McIntyre said.

Of course, when it comes to the entertainment industry, they never seem to care about actually following the rules in order to get their favored legislation passed. In the meantime, could those who usually chime in supporting everything the entertainment industry has to say explain what’s wrong with actually going through the normal process to put a law like this in place? Is the industry really so afraid of allowing public debate on this issue that they have to sneak it through backdoor loopholes?

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Comments on “Irish Gov't Trying To Sneak Through Massive Copyright Law Changes Via Questionable Legal Process”

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jilocasin (profile) says:

I'm assuming that last question was rhetorical?

I can only assume that the last question in the article was purely rhetorical.

“Is the industry really so afraid of allowing public debate on this issue that they have to sneak it through backdoor loopholes?”

Otherwise the obvious answer would be Yes.

Anyone who is not directly involved in the industry (on the receiving end of the proposed payola) and who was paying even the most remote attention would see this for what it is;

A shameless attempt to change the law so that other people would be forced to prop up their increasingly obsolete business model.

If people in government would stop thinking according to their bank accounts and actually started doing what’s best for their constituents and country then this would be a non-issue.

Unfortunately we seem to have progressed deep into the era of Corporatocracy, government by the corporation for the corporation.

Steven (profile) says:

Why doesn't this happen the other way?

I’m sure there are large industries and companies that would like to see much more sensible copyright and patent law. Why don’t we see similar tactics being used to push through reduction in copyright terms, independent invention defenses, or any number of other common sense proposals.

Is the money on the more, more, more side really that much larger? We’ve seen the (sometimes a bit tongue in cheek) reports of how much more money is in copyright free areas, why is the pressure in that direction so lacking?

Michael (profile) says:

Why doesn't this happen the other way?

Oddly, the companies that would benefit most from the elimination or relaxation of IP laws are the ones pushing for stricter ones. The same companies that rely heavily on fair use and the public domain are the ones trying to lock up content with copyright and patent everything they can get their hands on.

It is easier for these companies to get paid for their monopoly. The players in the industries that do not already have a huge patent portfolio or thousands of hours of copyright-protected content are the young players that don’t have money for lobbying.

Funny – that’s the opposite of promoting progress, isn’t it?

RikuoAmero (profile) says:

An Irishman here

I’m Irish and this is the first I’ve heard of this matter. The election is literally tomorrow, Friday.
I actually don’t believe Mary Hanafin will do this. It’s because I don’t see any reason for her to do it. In the U.S., you often have government officials going directly into jobs in the likes of the MPAA (there was a story a day or two ago about this, here on techdirt). However, that won’t happen here in Ireland, simply because the names of all the out-going ministers are mud. Each and every government minister has been shown to be at the very best incompentent at their job. Hanafin won’t be going into a cushy job for the entertainment industry: she taught at one of Ireland’s most elite private schools for 17 years before going into politics. There isn’t a company in Ireland willing to hire her or any other minister, for fear of the backlash in reputation they would get for hiring a senior government member who helped drag the economy into the ground. To summarise, there’s no benefit for Hanafin to sign three strikes into law.
In the future, it may get signed into law, but not at this moment in time.

Bruce Ediger (profile) says:

The Mechanics of these "Back-door" laws?

So, we have the UK’s “Digital Economy Act”, this Irish thing, and the way France slipped their 3-strikes law into place. For those that remember the past, there was an effort in the USA to pass an atrocity called “UCC-2B” into law. It mercifully failed, although supporters did get it passed into state law in Virginia (I think) and at least one other state. Some US states got “Super-DMCA” laws in the last 10 years, I recall.

How does the actually mechanics of getting some weird-beard law slipped past the very basic mechanisms of the legislatures work? I’m not talking the legal fine points here, these clearly differ a great deal between US Federal, US States, UK Parliament, Irish legislature and French Parliament. What I want to know, is what kind of shenanigans do you have to pull to get such a thing done?

Is every member of every legislative body *that* amenable to just “slipping something through”? I’d think that a small fraction of every legislative body would be revolted by that sort of thing, just on principle, because they like debating and arguing. I’d think a largish fraction of the pro bureaucrats would be just horrified by a caper of this sort, mainly because it would disrupt their professional lives, and cause a lot of unusual paperwork. And what about the press? Surely Fleet Street reporters love to flaunt these sorts of capers around in the UK. Don’t they?

And after those considerations, how much does all the back-room conniving cost? International smoke-filled room conferences can’t come cheap. What if you get caught?

Bruce Ediger (profile) says:

Read the article, Funny Boy

The article says “no notice and no public discussion”. As a US citizen, I can assure you, on my mother’s grave, that “ObamaCare” received as much notice and public discussion as any bill has ever had in my lifetime.

Now, if you’d said “How is this different than the PATRIOT Act” or it’s extensions, I’d have to give you that point.

Richard Hack (profile) says:

If it's NOT going to be implemented...

Sharon Corr (of the rock group, The Corrs) and her husband, Belfast attorney Gavin Bonnar, are going to be ticked off.

I had a huge Twitter argument with Bonnar a couple times over IP issues. He hates file sharing with an insane passion. His wife and her rock group generally hate it as well, having served as spokespersons for the Euro equivalent of the RIAA. She even stood up and complained loudly at a meeting with either the Taoiseach or some other high ranking government official that they weren’t doing enough to fight file sharing.

I love Sharon for her music and generally being a nice person, but she, and especially her husband, are way off base on the IP issue.

Idobek (profile) says:

Re: By order of the EC?

Oops, sorry.

With the news that MEPs are beginning to look at copyright law more closely, I am beginning to wonder if the bureaucrats at the EC have decided to try a different tack. By getting each member state pass a 3 strikes independently the EC can then go to the MEPs with a “harmonisation” plan.

It is a new approach to EU rule number 1: If someone is blocking a move towards more EU integration and control – route around them.

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