[Updates at end] It appears that the Irish Government has implemented or is about to implement a significant change to the Copyright & Related Rights Acts 2000 to 2007 by statutory instrument on the eve of an election.
Silicon Republic reports:
In its final days, the Government is believed to be rushing through a statutory instrument that will amend the existing Copyright Act and which will give judges the power to grant injunctions against ISPs in relation to copyright infringement cases.
The demands for the change came about as a result of Mr. Justice Charleton’s decision in EMI v. UPC last year, when he ruled that Irish law did not allow him to grant such injunction “even though that relief is merited on the facts.”
The decision led to frantic lobbying on the part of record companies and a media campaign on this issue, including dramatic statements from Paul McGuinness that the issue “has got to do with the future of civilisation”.
With the range of other problems facing the Government the issue did not get much priority. The election manifestos of Fine Gael and the Green Party suggest that they are conscious of the issue with FG appearing to support the industry and the Greens appearing to support the consumer.
If accurate, there are many problems with this amendment and TJ McIntyre outlines them in his comments to Silicon Republic. However, whether or not the contents of the amendment to the Acts are agreed with, it is shocking that the Government is proposing to introduce such a contentious change by way of statutory instrument with hours to go before an election.
A statutory instrument is defined as “an order, regulation, rule, scheme or bye-law made in exercise of a power conferred by statute”. Section 7 of the Acts appears to provide reasonably wide scope for the introduction of regulations but it is likely be a topic for debate as to whether the reported change fits within or exceeds that provision.
Ironically, Charleton J. stated in his judgment:
Legislative intervention is required, if the Oireachtas see fit, to protect constitutional rights to copyright and foster the national resource of creativity. (my emphasis)
Updates (24 February 2011)
- Acting Minister for Enterprise, Trade & Innovation Mary Hanafin has said that there “is no truth in the rumour” that an amendment to the Copyright & Related Rights Acts will be passed before the election. The press Minister expects the next Government to consult on the issue before such an amendment is made.
- However, an story from the original source of the rumour earlier today said that the Department “neither confirmed nor denied that a statutory instrument was being pushed through, but said “it may be necessary” to introduce measures to clarify Ireland’s position under the Copyright Directive in relation to injunctions, thanks to the recent court case involving UPC and the music industry.”
- Simon Coveney, a front-bench member of Fine Gael, tweeted about the issue earlier. Fine Gael is highly likely to introduce the amendment following the election but not, one hopes, by way of statutory instrument.