Irish ‘SOPA law’ another under the radar attack on digital rights by a craven government pandering far too easily to corporate interests


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Irish ‘SOPA law’ another under the radar attack on digital rights by a craven government pandering far too easily to corporate interests

Very strong and accurate piece from Karlin Lillington in the Irish Times today, making no bones about the motivations behind the changes in copyright law that Sean Sherlock and the Irish government are trying to sneak in. It’s odd at a time when the SOPA law in the US, which is similarly motivated to the Irish law, has just been dropped.

FOR THREE governments in a row, “short-sighted” and “sneaky” seem to have become the relevant terms in operation when bringing in controversial, high-impact legislation on digital issues.

In the past, from the government’s perspective, this approach has worked well in shoving in poorly drafted, unscrutinised law on the controversial area of data retention, giving the Republic one of the most severe, internationally criticised, anti-business retention regimes in the world.

This time around, the Government is trying again to use secondary legislation – a statutory instrument requiring no discussion and no debate in the Oireachtas – to (supposedly) protect intellectual property for a narrow band of hard-lobbying entertainment industries.

For despite what the ‘hard-lobbying entertainment industries’ might say internet piracy is not killing off its profits. That assumes for a start that the amount produced is static, which given the amount of ‘content’ flooding towards us each day is absurd.

But more importantly, there is evidence (from numerous mainstream studies and reports) that industry claims about piracy decimating revenue, jobs and creativity are vastly overstated. A careful analysis of such claims by Julian Sanchez on Ars Technica (, picked up and further discussed by, indicates piracy has actually had only a minor impact on these industries.

The record industry in the US, for example, has about double the new releases it had a decade ago, when piracy was barely on its radar. The film industry also has more releases now than in pre-piracy days and its most pirated movies are also those that made staggering box office profits. Sanchez cites evidence that the music industry is making back profits lost to piracy through “complementary purchases” such as concert tickets. And a recent report issued by a US anti-piracy lobby group rather farcically indicates its clients are doing quite well, thank you.

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Donagh is the editor of Irish Left Review. Contact Donagh through email:

3 Responses

  1. Séan Ó Siochrú

    January 27, 2012 3:02 pm

    A summary of what copyright is about, and how this kind of Act threatens the public sphere, can be found here. I wrote it with my friend Bruce Girard. It was Commissioned by the International Telecoms Union (ITU: the specialised UN Agency) in the context of the World Summitt on the Information Society, in 2003.

    The first sections offer a good summary of the big picture. It reminds us of what copyright is intended to be, and should be – a means to encourage creativity


  2. Jacob Gill

    January 27, 2012 4:23 pm

    Donagh, here’s a very interesting article here on the subject of file sharing which gnatters about cyber socialism!

    If copyright etc were to be euthanised & guaranteed basic income or Dean Baker’s Artistic Freedom Voucher

    are deemed politically infeasible section 4 gives an inkling into measures & schemes to provide income for cultural workers beyond performance fees.

    The antecedent article to Filby’s linked one sported this quote from Thomas More that I think sums up very aptly the times. –

    “A king who can’t suppress crime without lowering standards of living should admit that he just doesn’t know how to govern free men…… He should hesitate to enforce any law which has long been disregarded – especially if people have got on perfectly well without it. And he should never invent a crime as an excuse for imposing a fine – no private person would be allowed to do anything so dishonest.”

  3. Donagh

    January 27, 2012 5:44 pm

    Thanks a lot Jacob. I liked Dean Baker’s idea obviously, but that such a concept wouldn’t get the time of day illustrates the motivations of the hard pressed entertainment lobby. ILR, like almost every lefty site I’ve seen and many others adhere to Creative Commons, or even Copyleft. Today, when asking permission to republish the Uninomade Collective post, I was told it was under copyriot! But again we are not looking to make a living from this, so the idea of providing appropriately for creative work should be followed up and on that thanks too Sean for the link to your 2003 article. But not to the point of ‘inventing a crime as an excuse for imposing a fine’.