IRMA Threatens Irish ISPs

I don’t want to get into the entire IRMA vs Eircom and IRMA vs ISPs debacle.

The only reason I’m even writing this is because I’m getting a bit tired of all the “quotes” of “quotes” and other unclear and misleading things that people have been saying about ISPs over the last few weeks.

To start with, we at Blacknight are not an access provider.

Basically that means that we do not provide broadband services (internet access)  to anyone. We provide hosting, domain registration and a lot of other services.

We are, however, members of both RIPE and ISPAI

So I was more than a bit taken aback when we got a letter from solicitors representing IRMA (EMI, Sony, Universal Music and Warner).

Since so many people have heard about these letters but so very few people have actually seen one I’ve taken the liberty of publishing the one we received below (I’m not sure if our legal counsel will approve, but I’m more than a little tired of all the “cloak and dagger”). Sorry it’s a PDF, but I wasn’t going to type it out again!
irmaletter.pdf

Since we don’t provide access, as I’ve already said, I don’t see how this can affect us, so I instructed our legal counsel to tell them as much:

Dear Sirs,

We act as solicitors for Blacknight Internet Solutions Limited who have handed us a copy of yours of the 13th inst.  We have explained the contents in detail to our clients who acknowledges your clients situation. 

It is most important to note however that our clients are a hosting provider.  This is distinct to an access provider and our client therefore does not offer DSL or other internet access services. 

We understand that the agreement with Eircom relates to DSL services, which make illegal filesharing possible.  Again we reiterate that our clients do not offer this service.  Nor does our client have any subscribers as outlined in your letter.

We sympathise with your clients, we hope you will see that our clients are not involved in such activities and therefore we would be grateful if you would kindly revert and confirm our clients cooperation and also a release from any legal action as mentioned in your aforesaid letter.

Obviously we cannot and will not condone any illegal activity on our network and will quite happily enforce our terms of service should we find them breached.

However the reality is that most of the “illegal content” that we do find on our network ends up there due to servers being hacked or people using weak passwords, though there have been exceptions!

Ultimately as a service provider we have to be answerable to our clients as well as the law. So if someone gets a court order we will act on it, however we will not share client data with $random 3rd parties.

If you have an issue with one of our clients for whatever reason then get a court order – sending us silly threats isn’t going to work. Seriously.

Demanding that ISPs act as a replacement for the judicial system, due process and all those lovely things that we expect in a democracy, is unreasonable. Apart from anything else the privacy issues cannot be ignored.

From a purely business perspective.. it’s a bit like David taking on Goliath in some respects.. While there are several large ISPs being targetted, others wouldn’t be much bigger than ourselves in terms of staff numbers etc., It’s highly doubtful that any of the smaller providers could really afford to engage in a lengthy and costly legal battle.

I guess we’ll see how things progress in the coming days and weeks ….

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Comments

  1. Bricky says:

    Finally, some factual info!
    Greatly appreciate this.
    [nit-pick]
    I really hate that (afaik incorrect) use of the verb “to revert”:
    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/revert
    [/nit-pick]

  2. Michele Neylon says:

    The reply was drafted by our solicitors, so I presume they know what they’re doing :)

  3. Gary Pigott says:

    Hang on a sec… IANAL and putting aside the ethics of the matter for a second, Section 40(4) of the law in question entitles them to go to court in order to get an ISP/hosting company to remove or block access to “offending” material. A court injunction a) is decided by a judge and b) you have the right to defend yourself on the day, so it’s fair play.
    The messed up thing as far as I’m concerned is they are threatening to take you to court immediately under section 40(4) if you don’t agree to waive your rights to due process under 40(4). But the only recourse under 40(4) is an injunction after the fact. It seems to be total scaremongering bull.

  4. Vinny says:

    The fact that Blacknight even received such a letter proves that these people haven’t a clue when it comes to tech.

  5. Michele Neylon says:

    Gary
    The letter was very heavyhanded and I really don’t like being threatened with legal action when I / we haven’t actually done anything wrong.
    Michele

  6. Gary Pigott says:

    @Michele
    I totally agree. I wasn’t trying to make the point that you deserve to be targeted. What I was trying to get across is that they’re threatening to take action immediately based on a law that doesn’t apply until after infringing data is found on your network. It’s like prosecuting someone for murder *before* they kill someone.

  7. andyaz says:

    Agreed Gary. You can’t threaten a blanket injunction. That’s a ruling of the courts after the fact, on a case by case basis.
    They’re basically asking whether you’re “with us or against us”.
    End of the day, and despite Eircom’s compliance, they will have to invoke “section 40(4)” in the same manner as before, based on individual cases.
    The biggest concern lies in their broad and lazy concept of who the “access providers” are.

  8. Chuck says:

    Did anyone else notice the call out to block TPB? Is this more about spreading blocks of TPB not about stopping filesharing? Especially since this specifically says there is no expectation to turn over subscriber info to IRMA.

  9. Darwin says:

    Thanks for posting this Michelle.
    This is completely congruent with the RIAA’s change of tactics in the U.S.
    They no longer target individuals (as they are reeling from the pursuit of endless frivolous lawsuits and the resulting bad press) but instead are trying to strong arm ISPs.
    [Link]
    The disturbing consequence of this shift may see innocent legitimate torrent users being pre-emptively barred from the internet without evidence or recourse, merely through suspicions voiced by the RIAA.
    But with any luck this will lead to a cottage industry of the type of small independent ISPs (Blacknight may want to get in here!) which tend towards telling IRMA and their ilk to Sod Off.
    Darwin

  10. David Guerin says:

    Hi Michele,
    Thanks for posting the letter. As I said on ILUG, speculation on things like this can blow them way out of proportion.
    But like you say, its not right that ISPs are being threatened for this. Going after the ISPs and getting them to block sites is easier than any other approach but its the most ethically (and depending on your interpretation and more importantly the Judges at the time of the trial) legally wrong.
    If all the ISPs stud together to fight this, there maybe a chance should it ever go to court.
    And as you say, it will be interesting to see the developments in the coming days, this is not going to go away anytime soon.
    Thanks again…
    Regards
    Dave

  11. Ever says:

    It’s the BSA (Business Software Alliance) all over again. Bunch of imcompetent eejits.
    I wonder how and if Eircom is going to implement this on their wifi hotspots?

  12. Nev says:

    Pretty cool. Glad to see the real documents out at last.
    So, now it’s time to move onto child pornography everybody. To put it in perspective, they are saying that I shouldn’t be allowed listen to music, but for me to go onto a child pornography site is acceptable.
    Well, I’m going to inform you of something. I have never, and will never, ever buy anything from any of these record companies ever.
    Helen Sheehy can shove her pathetic threats where the sun don’t shine, and the fact that they are advocating that we censor, of all things, music. Music, they want us to censor music? Are they serious?
    If they have a problem with the way Ireland is conducting business then I propose they GTFO. They’re not contributing anything to Ireland except sub-standard commercialized music, and perhaps they should review their practises before entering the Irish market.
    They want us to censor everything we do, and buy all their music, in return for. Nothing. Nothing at all, except legal pursuits.
    They can’t even get their recipients correct. They fail to understand the law, and they are ignorant, selfish and self-praising gits who employ solicitors to do their dirty work.
    Censorship of the internet; Another futile reason why businesses will refrain from Ireland. Whatever about not being able to stand up to banking executives, we can’t even stand up to the people who are employed to make music. .. Another bunch of thieves roaming the streets. We’ve only just got rid of the IRA, and now we’ve got the IRMA on our hands. All that changed was one letter in their name.
    The legal system in Ireland was designed to bring criminals to justice. Not to put music-lovers in jail. I have lost all respect for these companies, and I believe they should withdraw all their operations in Ireland if they don’t like the way we operate.

  13. g says:

    Your response was a little too formal, should have tried something a little more… colourful http://thepiratebay.org/legal :)
    Its an absolute disgrace that they are attempting to scaremonger ISP’s into imposing censorship onto the internet, and getting away with it. What next? I’m sure they can compile a long list of websites who don’t support their goal of greed and abuse of the consumer to start blocking.
    I think a quote from John Kennedy of the IFPI who was testifying in Sweden today in the prate bay case sits very well
    – “We have approached Google and told them about this. We have asked them if they want to be our opponents or our partners… If Google had indicated they would be our opponent, we would have taken them to court.”
    The Record Industry, always trying to destroy innovation and advances in technology since the development of the radio.

  14. xurizaemon says:

    @Bricky

    I really hate that (afaik incorrect) use of the verb “to revert”:
    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/revert

    Nice one. Nit-pick, then link to a URL where definition (2) makes it quite clear that your nitpick is entirely wrong.

  15. bushi.net.nz says:

    @Bricky

    I really hate that (afaik incorrect) use of the verb “to revert”:
    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/revert

    Nice one. Nit-pick, then link to a URL where definition (2) makes it quite clear that your nitpick is entirely wrong.

    2. Law. to go back to or return to the former owner or to his or her heirs.

  16. bushi.net.nz says:

    Or maybe that’s (6), IANAL(awyer|inquist), IANANP :)

  17. Dean Tomblin says:

    Hi,
    I would just like to say, picked up this story from ‘El Reg’ (http://www.theregister.co.uk) and I would like to say, well done on standing up for yourselves against the incompetence of the masses :)
    I completely agree that sending your business a letter clearly written for an ISP shows the grasp of modern day technology they don’t have as well as complete lack of intelligence on their behalf.
    I will be watching developments with interest, and, as a member of the general public, with complete support for you, your partners in the business, colleagues and clients :)
    Well wishes,
    Dean Tomblin

  18. Macros42 says:

    Good work. IRMA really have their heads up their collective asses. They consistently show no clue as to how the technology works and their heavy handed tactics are pure bluster.

  19. I can’t help but wonder if they grabbed a golden pages and sent their blackmail letters to every Irish company connected to the word Internet. It wouldn’t surprise me if IEDR got one, maybe even some plant that makes modems. All Sheehy Donnelly have done is made themselves look daft for posterity, just in case some of us might consider doing business with them in relation to one of our tech companies. I suppose it is appropriate for an archaic organization like IMRO to have a corresponding legal representative.
    How you are going about it is utterly counterproductive. They need to work with content facilitators, not go around threatening the very people who could advance the interests of recording artists.
    Cian de Buitléir
    Draiocht LLC

  20. Cian says:

    Here in the states the music industry has taken to chasing down little old ladies whose internet wifi connection was probably pirated, and that terrible PR has left virtually no sympathy for the music industry. Besides, there are technological measures for file sharing no ISP could counter – FreeNet for example – with such advanced technology weapons in the hands of music pirates, the last thing IMRO needs is to start making enemies of the good guys. Ireland doesn’t need to follow the US example when it comes to law and lack of due process.

  21. Cian says:

    Didn’t mean “how YOU”, but “how they” in above post – needless to say there was copy and paste from a letter to them. PS: Well done in the awards.

  22. Chrisbo Gregson says:

    Nice to see someone standing up for common sense here!
    Regardless of your stance on file sharing, I think this gets to the heart of the matter: “Demanding that ISPs act as a replacement for the judicial system, due process and all those lovely things that we expect in a democracy, is unreasonable. Apart from anything else the privacy issues cannot be ignored.”
    Are we facing into a situation where private companies are allowed to dictate which parts of the Internet the people of Ireland are allowed to look at simply by threatening to sue the ISPs? Shame on Eircom for complying with these bullying tactics.
    I am cancelling my Eircom subscription in protest, and will be writing formal letters of complaint to comreg and the Minister for Communication. Any other suggestions for fighting this?

  23. Michele Neylon says:

    @Cian – please note that the organisation involved here is IRMA and not IMRO
    Michele

  24. Cian says:

    Hehe, I’m out of touch with Ireland.
    Here’s a crack up – Eircom host the solicitors’s website!
    It’s all daft anyway – did prohibition work in the states? Expect FreeNet and eppsites to explode in popularity in Ireland.

  25. John Ruddy says:

    The business model of these companies is threatened by changing consumer habits and recessionary times. The idea of the Internet terrifies them…in fact they were once terrified by magnetic tapes not so long ago.
    Perhaps if they put as much effort into investigating alternative business models and revenue streams it might serve them better than getting solicitors to write misinformer litigious letters to hosting companies.

  26. Neil says:

    Just goes to show IRMA’s (RIAA lets face it) absolute ignorance that Blacknight was even sent an email.
    These heavy-handed threats are vigilante-like. Honestly, I am appalled at these legal threats to ISPs (and hosting services).
    Should just tell them where to shove it.. This is Ireland not China, Censorship won’t stand!

  27. ObsessiveMathsFreak says:

    I am so glad I chose this company as a host. Your integrity is so refreshing. I will certainly use Blacknight for any future projects and I will be recommending you as well! You deserve it.

  28. Pierce says:

    I would like to know what infringing material the piratebay has.. its a collection of files with links in it no?
    So Google should also be blocked because it holds infringing materal, it comes up not only with the piratebay but other torrent sites and usents..
    What about eircom net, should they not also be blocked as they impliment a search which can be used to used for torrenting..(yes i know its google search) http://news.eircom.net/googlesearch/websearch/index.jsp?q=torrent+site%3Athepiratebay.org&meta=cr%3D&ie=utf8&oe=utf8&client=eircom&output=xml_no_dtd&source=searchbar&searchTab=web
    Pierce

  29. Peter Knight says:

    Wow! That’s throwing down the gauntlet.
    Slightly off-topic buy have you seen the solicitors own website? It looks like it was designed in the 1940s.
    And I thought it was a lealrequirement to have company registration numbers etc on sites these days?

  30. Rory O'Kelly says:

    “From a purely business perspective.. it’s a bit like David taking on Goliath in some respects.. While there are several large ISPs being targetted, others wouldn’t be much bigger than ourselves in terms of staff numbers etc., It’s highly doubtful that any of the smaller providers could really afford to engage in a lengthy and costly legal battle.”
    I’m not up on my bible, but I seem to recall David won that particular engagement? I guess if he’d had to pay legal fees it might have been a different story.

  31. Dez says:

    Thanks for posting this. Its very heavy handed action. I would suggest that a nationwide campaign to boycott these record companies and not purchase anything from them again. It seems that money is the only thing they understand so boycotting will make them understand internet consumers concerns.
    I also think there’s a privacy issue here. I think this avenue needs investigating
    Thanks
    Dez

  32. Hello Blacknight Staff and whoever read this comment,
    I am in creation of a WaveLAN Service http://www.tdwave.net/ in Germany/Baden-Würtemberg and I will go the same way as Blacknight.
    What I have read in this blog and others I agree to 100% and I share this opinions.
    Also I will change our conditions (TD Wave) to support this opinion in Germany too. I am not only Dr. in Informatic, Dipl.Eng. in Electronic, Electrotechnic and Mechanical Engineering, but also I have my Master in “Internationalem Wirtschafts und Strafrecht sowie Menschenrecht” (but not practizing it).
    I am supporter of the EFF and FFII and I am behind free speech and free access to any informations and it can not be, that a minority of peoples (less then 4% if internet users) doing nasty stuff and the rest of the users is paying with restrictions for it.
    Greetings from Germany
    Michelle konzack
    Owner of Tamay Dogan Network