While there were rumors today that Comcast and AT&T might be entering into an agreement with the RIAA in the United States, it was in Ireland where the recording industry made its latest "three strikes" subscriber termination deal with the telecom industry -- using the courts and the threat of mass Internet filtering obligations as the inducement.
The Irish Recorded Music Industry (IRMA), the local recording industry organization, and Irish internet service provider Eircom announced a settlement this morning, ending a lawsuit in which IRMA was demanding that the ISP pro-actively discriminate content on their networks.
According to a text obtained by Irish tech journalist Adrian Weckler, the settlement says that the ISP will, when given a list of IP addresses by the music industry:
1) inform its broadband subscribers that the subscriber's IP address has been detected infringing copyright and
2) warn the subscriber that unless the infringement ceases the subscriber will be disconnected and
3) in default of compliance by the subscriber with the warning it will disconnect the subscriber"
In settling, Eircom has chosen not to defend a case which could have ended in court-mandated surveillance of all its customers. But this agreement now denies Eircom's own customers all future access to due process when accused of infringement. All that is needed to terminate an Internet connection is three accusations from a narrow set of third-party companies. As Eircom's head of communications Paul Bradley says:
"What happens at the moment is that music labels need to go to court to get an order asking us to shut off a subscriber's connection. Under the compromise, they will come to us, using the same standard of proof they would have given the court."
The difference is that an ISP is not a court; and its customers will never have a chance to defend themselves against the recording industry's accusations and "proof". To whom, without judicial oversight, has the ISP obligated itself to provide meaningful due process and to ensure that the standard of proof has been met?
The agreement, according to reports, also stipulates that IRMA will take "all necessary steps" to put the same agreements in place with Eircom's competitors, presumably using the same strategy of threatening the companies with legal action unless they sign up.
Now we'll see how fiercely other ISPs defend their users' rights; or, if they do comply, how ISPs enjoy being seen as allies of the recording industry in this famously unpopular war against their own customers.