Irish anti-piracy effort hits hundreds with false accusations

The online rights activist group European Digital Rights (EDRI) chimed in on the latest gaffe in what’s become a worrisome trend on the part of anti-piracy groups: inaccurate copyright infringement claims. Over 300 Irish citizens received letters alleging illegal file-sharing that never occurred according to a recent report by UK news publication The Sunday Times.

Irish anti-piracy effort hits hundreds with false accusations

The Ireland-based ISP Eircom and the music industry’s anti-piracy methods in general are now under investigation following an alleged “software failure” (which is being blamed for the boondoggle) by Irish Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes, said the article.

“When the Eircom/music industry three strikes settlement was being agreed, the Data Protection Commissioner identified significant data protection problems with it,” said the EDRI. The problems are obviously still there, believes the group.

TJ McIntyre, a digital rights expert and lecturer at University College Dublin’s School of Law who contributed to EDRI’s coverage of the story, says he predicted the mistake would eventually happen back in 2009.

“Far from being a technical sounding ‘software failure,’ this appears to show up ineptitude in relation to a very basic aspect of network management – i.e. making sure that the server clock reflects daylight savings time,” explained McIntyre in an IT Law in Ireland blog entry. “It seems that users found themselves being accused on the basis of what somebody else did from the same IP address either an hour earlier or an hour later.”

Luckily nothing but misinformed legal notices were the result. Though certainly an issue, McIntyre points out it could have been much worse for the 300+ affected by the daylight saving time hiccup: “For example, being arrested and having their homes searched due to the wrong time being used.”

Eircom reached a settlement in April 2010 with the Irish branches of the Big Music companies Sony, EMI, Universal and Warner which put a greater onus on the ISP insofar as cutting down on illicit music sharing. TorrentFreak purports that the false claims of infringement were sent out last October.

The fight against piracy and copyright infringement has hit similar snags in the U.S.

Earlier this year a massive ICE-led operation turned off service to innocent websites – save for the infamous “this domain has been seized” message. In May, the Department of Homeland Security requested that Mozilla remove the add-on MAFIAAFire which helped people circumvent seized domains. The company curtly declined, citing the lack of a court order. (via TorrentFreak)