by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
copyright, ireland, three strikes

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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  1. icon
    RikuoAmero (profile), 24 Feb 2011 @ 10:39am

    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.

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