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Eircom Gets Heavy With Rock Fans

The long-running battle between Irish incumbent operator eir and the music industry has turned another corner with news that the Dublin-based carrier is threatening to withdraw broadband service from customers suspected of illegally sharing content, particularly music files.

Under these plans, to which Eircom has agreed only after a protracted court battle with members of the Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA), Ireland's main Internet service provider is sending out warning letters to those of its subscribers it has identified as illegal file sharers.

Persistent offenders then receive a phone call warning them to desist. Those identified a third time have their broadband service withdrawn for a week. If they're caught again, they're disconnected from Eircom for a year.

The carrier, which is now part of the Singapore Technologies Telemedia Pte. Ltd. (ST Telemedia) telecom empire, envisions initially sending out around 50 of the warning letters each week.

IRMA is using a service called DetecNet, which poses as a peer-to-peer file sharer, to target the offending music fans, and supply Eircom with the IP addresses of those illegally sharing copyrighted content.

Last month an Irish High Court judge gave the green light to the implementation of the Eircom/IRMA graduated response to illegal file sharing, which was originally agreed in February 2009.

Sony BMG , EMI Group plc (NYSE: EMI), Warner Music Inc. , and Universal Music Group -- all members of IRMA -- had wanted Eircom to actively monitor users' IP traffic using special tracking software, but the operator claimed this raised privacy issues and refused to do it.

Other ISPs around Europe will be watching Eircom's progress, as pressure is increasing on the region's service providers to clamp down on file-sharing activity, especially as the potential revenues from paid-for digital content could be significant for the content owners and ISPs alike. (See UK ISPs Could Score With Music, EU Reforms Telecom, and Brits Mull Broadband Bris.)

— Paul Rainford, freelance editor, special to Light Reading

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