Earlier this month, we witnessed international outcry and protests from large corporations that opposed the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the U.S. SOPA is a highly publicized issue, and it's received a lot of attention. However, receiving significantly less attention is the news that Ireland is set to pass a law that is very similar to SOPA. In fact, it's so similar that it's being referred to as 'Ireland's SOPA.'
Officially named S.I. No. of 2011 European Communities (Copyright and Related Rights) Regulations 2011, solicitor and IT law expert TJ McIntyre cites an early draft of the law as saying:
"(..) the owner of the copyright in the work concerned may apply to the High Court for an injunction against a person who provides facilities (...) where those facilities are being used by one or more third parties to infringe the copyright in that work."
Or, 'in English' as McIntyre, a solicitor, lecturer in the School of Law at University College Dublin, and chairman of civil rights group Digital Rights Ireland, puts it:
"This will give the Irish courts an open-ended power to grant orders against ISPs and other intermediaries who provide facilities which might be used to infringe copyright. This could include hosting providers, social networks, forums, video hosting sites - potentially most online services.
"At a minimum this will probably allow courts to require ISPs to block access to alleged infringing sites (such as The Pirate Bay). Over and above that it becomes impossible to say - the language is so vague it might, for example, allow a court to require an ISP to introduce a three strikes system or to block certain ports. However, once copyright plaintiffs get hold of this power you can expect it to be pushed to its absolute limit."
Obviously, a law such as this is cause for huge concern, as the potential impact is enormous. Access to YouTube could be blocked for copyright infringement on the part of one user, for example. However, up until last night, there wasn't going to be any parliamentary discussion on the law. This is because the law is to be brought in by a statutory instrument, a result of an earlier decision in a lawsuit filed by EMI. Wired reports that in this particular case, the court conceded that, though EMI's rights were being breached by ISPs allowing copyrighted works be shared for free, Irish law didn't offer a way to remedy the situation, something that European law requires. This new law is supposed to rectify that, and it was to be enacted upon ministerial approval, which means it does not formally need the approval of the Dáil or Seanad (the lower and upper houses of Irish parliament, respectively) before it is passed by minister Seán Sherlock.
This situation has since changed, though. According to the Journal.ie, innovation minister Seán Sherlock has said he will hold a full Dáil debate on his proposed legislation. Sherlock is quoted as saying there "will be a debate before it is signed" and it's thought this debate will be planned today and scheduled for sometime next week.
TJ McIntyre's FAQ on the whole affair is a great resource for those that wish to learn more, as is stopSOPAIreland.com. You can check out the law itself here. If you'd like to sign a petition against the law, head on over to stopSOPAIreland.