|Recording Industry Now Owns 63% of Ireland's Internet
||[Jun. 21st, 2010|03:02 pm]
The story so far: The Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA) have successfully persuaded Eircom, Ireland's largest broadband provider (42% of the market), to censor their service and threaten their own customers with disconnection if they are merely accused of illegal file sharing. In effect the recording industry have introduced a de facto three-strikes law with none of that pesky judicial oversight that might actually require them to spend money on lawyers. Of course this has put Eircom at a competitive disadvantage since both accused customers and actual files sharers will be compelled to jump ship for friendlier ISPs. So as part of their agreement IRMA have begun chasing down other Irish ISPs to force them to introduce the same conditions.
The news did not improve when Vodafone (also serving departed BT Ireland's customers) folded under IRMA's threats and is now in talks with them over the introduction of filtering and three-strikes on their service. Vodafone is the second largest provider with 21% of the market.
That's now 63% of all internet users subject to these draconian restrictions.
The one hope is UPC Ireland, the third largest provider with 15% of the market, who have vowed to fight IRMA on the grounds that there is absolutely no legal requirement for them to protect other people's intellectual property. There is some hope here for them as IRMA have not yet won a court case against an ISP. But with such a small fraction of the market at stake it seems unlikely that Eircom and Vodafone will use a win by UPC as grounds for cancelling their agreements with IRMA. Of course, IRMA can just keep suing UPC until their continued defiance starts to eat away profits -- after all, while UPC is a large international, IRMA is several large internationals.
There is a very real possibility that, over the next two or three years Ireland will become the first nation on Earth who's primary information infrastructure has fallen entirely under the control of the recording industry.
The reason for this totalitarian response? Mr Willie Kavanagh of EMI Music Ireland and chairman of IRMA claims that the recorded music industry in Ireland has halved in the last four years and that sales of recorded music are expected to drop another 12% this year. Against all available evidence from independent studies Mr Kavanagh and IRMA seem to be of the opinion that the blame for this decline can be laid squarely at the feet of illegal file sharing.
It is conceivable that their hypothesis will soon be put to the test.
I don't pirate music (not intentionally at least), but nor do I buy a lot of it. The little music I do purchase these days comes directly from the artists or, where that's not possible, from independent labels. If I can do neither of these things then I simply don't buy at all. This new regime will not alter this, it won't make me pay for more music. But how will it affect the music buying and listening habits of everyone else? Are the file sharers really going to start buying more CDs?
If sales continue to fall will the recording industry simply dry up and disappear from our shores (as Mr Kavanagh predicts in the next fives years without internet filtering and three-strikes)? Would that be enough to prove that it is not file sharing that is killing the industry but the simple fact that their services are no longer required? Would they use continued decline as justification for even more restrictions on ISPs? Might they massage their figures to show a levelling or even a rise in sales in an attempt to show that the measures are working and use that as "proof" that they need to be introduced in other countries?
How long will it be, at the current rate of decline, before the recording industry as a whole simply does not have enough money to continue this ill-considered war?
Time will tell.