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Ireland passes SOPA-like anti-piracy legislation despite protests

01 Mar 2012
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Ireland has passed SOPA-like anti-piracy legislation that will allow copyright holders to request court injunctions against websites and social networks deemed to be hosting pirated content.

Minister for research and innovation, Sean Sherlock signed the European Union Copyright and Related Rights Regulations 2012, but promised the implementation of the law would uphold a number of measures to protect internet services providers (ISPs) that would be asked to block site access.

This includes ensuring that ISPs cannot be required to carry out general monitoring on the information on its network, that any monitoring must not be unnecessarily complicated or costly and that the privacy rights of ISPs' customers must be respected.

Sherlock signed the bill despite widespread opposition and concerns that it would limit internet freedom.

"Ireland is home to some of the world's most innovative internet companies, and we are determined to grow our reputation as a location where smart people and smart companies can innovate in this fast-moving arena," said Sherlock.

"The challenge now is to examine what measures we can take to develop Ireland's laws in this area in such a way as to provide the greatest possible encouragement for innovation in the creative and digital industries to take place here."

"This is a very complex area of law which affects industries that are developing at lightning pace and where the interests of many diverse and changing parties interact with each other," he added.

However, a campaign group opposing the legislation, Stop Sopa Ireland, said Sherlock had made "a very bad decision".

"This law will potentially impact on the freedoms to do business and to free expression of every company and citizen in the country," said the group in a blog post.

"The legislature has been treated with double contempt - firstly by being denied a chance to scrutinise and vote on the law and secondly by the government's staging of a debate where the opposition made honest efforts to constructively engage with the law, only to be told in the final seconds that nothing they had said was going to make any difference anyway."

The group also pointed to the concerns held by the Irish Internet Service Providers' Association and the fact that more than 80,000 people wrote to ministers expressing concern over the bill.

The US Stop Online Piracy Act, which would have a more widespread impact than the Ireland legislation, was recently postponed indefinitely by the US Congress.

If passed, the legislation would have allowed US courts to order ISPs, search companies and advertising services to take action against copyright-infringing web sites.

SOPA received global opposition with a number of high-profile websites taking their content offline for a day to protest the proposals.

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