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Ireland drops three-strikes policy, reports say

Irish broadband users should no longer be subject to a three-strikes disconnection policy over apparent copyright infringement, as reports suggest the country's data protection chief has ruled the policy to be unlawful.The ruling was reported on Sunday.

Irish broadband users should no longer be subject to a three-strikes disconnection policy over apparent copyright infringement, as reports suggest the country's data protection chief has ruled the policy to be unlawful.

The ruling was reported on Sunday. However, a separate report on Monday indicated that the Irish government intends to allow rights-holders to go to court to force ISPs to block access to websites that aid infringement.

Last year, the Irish government gave its approval to an agreement between major ISP Eircom and music labels EMI, Sony BMG, Warner and Universal. Under the agreement, Eircom promised to cut customers' access for a year if they were caught three times unlawfully sharing copyrighted material online.

The Irish data protection commissioner (DPC) got involved in June this year after Eircom accidentally sent 300 customers warning letters claiming they had been involved in copyright infringement. Apart from looking into that specific incident, the DPC also launched a wider investigation into the three-strikes policy itself.

Now, according to TheJournal.ie, the DPC has ruled against the lawfulness of the policy due to privacy concerns over identifying web users by their IP addresses — the standard way of finding alleged copyright infringers.

ZDNet UK has asked the DPC to give details about its ruling, but the DPC said only that it had "concluded its investigation on the above matter and... communicated the outcome to Eircom", which has three weeks to respond.

Meanwhile, a separate development looks set to work out more in rights-holders' favour. An Irish Times report on Monday suggested that the government, under legal pressure from EMI, will in January bring in the same kind of site-blocking provisions that the UK recently allowed.

In the UK, rights-holders recently won their first court orders to force ISPs to block customers' access to the file-sharing site Newzbin2. At the moment, Ireland's copyright legislation does not permit such court orders, but the Irish Times report stated that enterprise minister Seán Sherlock was set to change this situation by means of a statutory instrument.