Ireland might be the first nation state to be brought down by Big Content for not doing what it’s told over file sharing.
The music industry is looking to sue the cash-strapped Irish government for refusing to bring in a SOPA style law which blocks websites.
Big Content wants sites it names to be blocked without the bothersome need for going to trial. Since the Irish will not do what they’re told, they are clearly pirates and must face the music.
According to Activepolitic, the background to this case lies in the October 2010 judgement of Charleton J. in EMI v. UPC where he held that Irish law did not permit an order to be made against an ISP requiring blocking of websites.
The music industry responded that since the State had not enacted the law it could be held responsible for all the file sharing that goes on in Ireland. Since that will be worth several trillion to the industry, by the time the lawyers have added lots of zeros, it means that the Irish government could be the first nation state to be sued into insolvency by Big Content.
To be fair, the Irish have said that they will have a “statutory instrument” to allow the blocking of websites in accordance to EU laws in the next few days.
But it doesn’t seem that the ability to block a website is what Big Content is after. The Irish Data Protection Commissioner has already ruled against Eircom’s three strikes system, and while any “statutory instrument” will allow for blocking a website it will not allow a SOPA system where the music industry tells an ISP to shut down a site without any evidence.
It looks like the music industry will use the European law principle, first seen in Italy, where damages are possible against a state for failure to transpose an EU directive.
It might be tricky to get a conviction. Big Content would have to prove that blocking websites stops piracy and demonstrate that the Irish government didn’t bring in a law fast enough.
In the unlikely event that Big Content wins, and the damages were on a normal file sharing level, and Ireland remains as broke as it is, then Big Content would be in the interesting situation of actually owning a small country.
We guess it could try selling it to repay the debt – China might be interested.