Wednesday, February 01, 2012
Stop SOPA Ireland
An Open Letter to Sean Sherlock TD
Courtesy of Boob.ie and Pop Culture Monster
Dear Mr Sherlock,
Further to the recent debate on January 31st at Dáil Éireann, we are presenting to you this letter as an appeal for you to reconsider your Statutory Instrument on Copyright in Ireland.
Before we go any further we are not what you have deemed us to be. We are not “keyboard warriors”, shouting blindly that any new proposed copyright law goes straight to the bin, because we don’t feel that way. We are concerned citizens of Ireland. And we feel we are not being treated as such.
Stating that the Statutory Instrument would be signed regardless of the 80,000 signatures from the general public in opposition and regardless of the issues and concerns voiced by your peers in office at today’s debate is demoralising. It forces us to believe that our voices, the voices of the people who put you where you are today, are not being heard. It forces us to believe that we are being ignored. It forces us to believe that you simply do not care. Surely the outcome of a Dáil debate, and subsequent vote, should determine whether or not the subject either goes forward for signing, back to the drawing board, or into the bin.
Let me assure you that we are all for protecting copyrighted material. We believe that all copyright holders should be compensated for the work and effort put into making their material. What we don’t believe in, however, is the manner in which this law is being proposed and put through. It’s undemocratic to believe using secondary legislation loopholes to push through a bill that is the best way to go about this.
We are not opposed to changing legislation. What we are opposed to is the vague wording of the legislation, leaving the net cast far too wide for interpretation and abuse.
As Junior Minister for Jobs, Enterprise, Innovation and Research it might be advisable, Mr Sherlock, to put some real research into a new law. Find out how to narrow it, so that situations where it is open to abuse cannot arise. You assured us today that despite the vague wording, it would not be abused. My question to you is, why word it so that it can be abused, and therefore have to assure us it will not? Why not rather reword it so that it cannot and therefore will not be abused?
And by doing so you might just implement a law that can be followed, enforced and adhered to in the manner for which it was intended. If that is achieved then perhaps it would help, instead of hinder (or indeed terminate) the creation of employment in this country. Particularly in a sector that is world renowned in providing highly qualified and innovative people.
There’s the word, Minister. Innovation. Let’s be innovative about this.
We are not calling for the copyright laws to remain the way they are, as they are presently being changed regardless of your Statutory Instrument. There is no point denying that the copyright laws currently in place have to change.
Simply stating that a party can apply for a court injunction if they feel an infringement has taken place will cause nothing more than a backlog in the courts, major costs to the tax payer and a fear that anyone with a blog, forum or website will be subject to attack from a party with deeper pockets.
Will a website be taken down for linking to a video on YouTube if the copyright holder seeks an injunction against YouTube? With this new legislation amendment, linking to copyright infringement is no less a crime than handling a stolen television set.
Will a website be blocked for using a freely available picture? If the main social players on the internet such as Google and YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter decide not to get involved in such disputes, will it block their sites from being used by anyone in Ireland? Will it block our websites, blogs, forums and other media from partnering for advertising or linking within their platforms?
Or will they just write off their investment in this country and move their headquarters to a state that isn’t run by corporate lobbyists, taking their jobs with them?
The fallout from DELL leaving under the old government was devastating. The fallout from the potentially dangerous legislation you’re proposing to implement is inconceivable. No doubt, it would end with you and your party being disgraced.
Many websites are under threat from this new legislation. Young websites that were established by people trying to make a way for themselves; people hoping to gain employment in national or international media; and people hoping to become self-employed and self-reliant. Websites that at this time do not have advertising budgets and rely on the free media of Facebook, Twitter, and a host of other social networking websites.
You mentioned a national online forum today (boards.ie) who have stated that they will not be able to support themselves in legal fees should they be taken to court under your new legislation. It’s not just boards.ie who could be forced to shut down, give up and walk away or start from scratch. It’s potentially millions of website owners. With your new legislation, you are affecting millions of Internet users. You are threatening millions of people’s livelihoods and sources of income.
This legislation has to have its wording tightened, because to put it bluntly Minister, it feels like this is EMI using you to push this through. After all, Eircom currently blocks its customers from using The Pirate Bay. So targeting UPC is the next way to go, we suppose.
If the law is there to protect the big companies from losing revenue due to illegal downloading, then by all means state that outright in the wording of the legislation.
We implore you bring it back to the drawing board, research it and come up with something that is concise and not so wide open to interpretation.
What we need now is for you to wait, patiently. The new copyright laws are being drawn up. Wait for them. And integrate a narrower and more focused version of your Statutory Instrument that doesn’t curb and limit freedom on the Internet; that won’t force businesses to take themselves elsewhere; that won’t limit creativity; and that won’t give rights of censorship by large bull-headed businesses.
We who operate on the internet on a daily basis understand how it works. We understand what’s frowned upon and what is downright illegal.
We understand that most of those who create original content want credit over compensation. Those lobbying you for this law are only concerned with the compensation, and that’s business, that’s fair enough. It shouldn’t however, prevent the (largely) self policing internet from doing what it does best - providing a platform for millions to express creativity and even free advertising for the big businesses in some cases. (Surely they don’t want to have their cake and eat it too?)
It’s those who do not understand the differences that this law is required for. Sad that it’s the same people who were slow to understand and grasp how much the internet would change their business. Sad that instead of embracing it and trying to understand how to integrate it into their business, they want to try and stop it altogether.
The videogame industry is constantly coming up with ways to combat piracy, and they’re beginning to work. But EMI et al, don’t need us to point that out to them. After all, their material is licensed on thousands of video game titles worldwide.
Perhaps if the record companies were proactive in their fight against piracy they might just discover an innovative way of doing so themselves.
And there that word is again, Minister.
Minister, we are a group of concerned bloggers, writers, artists, columnists and professionals who understand the need for greater copyright protection, but are fearful of the cloak and dagger way you seem to be attempting to implement it.
Protection of the people is the job of the government, something our Taoiseach has no problem telling us when there’s more bad financial news on the way. Protecting business is another, and we get that.
It just needs to be handled a lot better than it has been.
In closing, Mr Sherlock, what we’re looking for is full disclosure and due process all the way. You and your colleagues in government were elected for change and this behaviour is something that reeks of your predecessors. What we want is protection for the small operator and not just for the big business, who can afford their protection regardless of the cost or effort.
We don’t expect you to answer or even acknowledge this letter Mr Sherlock, but we do call on you to acknowledge that there are people at your disposal who can help you with this law and legislation.
Please don’t do what we fear you’re doing, and run this through thinking you know what you’re at.
Ireland’s Internet Community