Video | The SOPA debate

Stephen’s speech on the SOPA legislation, January 31, 2012.

“This would be a bit like forcing National Toll Roads to shut down entire sections of the motorway in order to stop speeding.”

(Text of his speech follows below. Key excerpts from the debate are here. The full text of the debate is here. Below is video of his second contribution.)

“The view of the team is that this will force legal costs upon them which will probably force them to close down.”

Stephen Donnelly:
I would like to start by saying I fully support the protection of copyrighted material. I thank the Minister of State for pausing in signing the legislation in order to allow for this debate. I accept legislation is required to comply with the recent High Court decision and EU directives in this area.

There are three reasons why additional clauses need to be added to the statutory instrument. The first is that the principle of targeting intermediaries is a fundamentally flawed approach. The second is that the statutory instrument will not have the desired effect. The third is that while it will not have the desired effect, it could have several undesired and unintended effects and consequences.

In terms of the principle of targeting intermediaries rather than the perpetrator, I will outline how this work. If someone posts a YouTube video link on Facebook the law, at its extreme, could allow an injunction which would force the ISP to block access to Facebook for Irish users. It would be like forcing National Toll Roads to shut down entire stretches of motorway in order to avoid speeding because it cannot find people who are doing it. The EU implemented the intermediary rather than the perpetrator approach several years ago. However, it has since said it was the wrong approach and is actively considering ways to develop a new approach. I have several quotes from very relevant people which I can supply the Minister of State with. It accepts it was not the correct approach.

In terms of the approach not having the desired effect, the real objective is to stop large-scale providers of pirated material being able to supply it in a readily available manner online. We all know there are very negative consequences if that happens. The technical experts I have spoken to have said the providers of the sort of material, like BitTorrent, can get around court injunctions in about five minutes. One expert said it is beyond laughable to suggest that this will do more than amuse the pirates. Ofcom, the UK regulator, said for all blocking methods circumvention by site operators and Internet users is technically possible and relatively straightforward. We also know other countries which have implemented this have seen a temporary dip in piracy traffic but it then increased again.

There are three unintended consequences, to which I will return in the question and answer session. Many online companies are afraid they will have to be shut down. Ireland’s reputation as a smart economy could be damaged and Internet access and freedoms in Ireland could be greatly curtailed.