THE JUNIOR MINISTER preparing a controversial new Statutory Instrument dealing with online copyright protection has said he is open to holding a Dáil debate on the issue.
The junior minister responsible for innovation, Seán Sherlock, told Newstalk’s Lunchtime Show that he hoped to have time allocated in the Dáil to discuss his planned legislation, which can be enacted without the approval of the Dáil or Seanad.
“It will be debated, hopefully at some stage in the next 24 hours,” Sherlock said.
The furore over the legislation – which has prompted an online petition which has been signed by almost 33,000 people since it was launched on Monday evening – was raised in the Dáil this morning by independent TD Stephen Donnelly.
Government chief whip Paul Kehoe said that he was prepared to facilitate a debate on the matter, but that today’s Dáil schedule had already been arranged.
Sherlock also said he would speak to TJ McIntyre of Digital Rights Ireland – who has helped to organise the ‘Stop SOPA Ireland’ petition – and any other interested parties who had an interest in the legislation.
Sherlock insisted that it was not his intention to block access to certain websites, acknowledging that blocked websites could simply re-emerge at a different web address.
‘Limit people’s freedoms’
He said the government did not wish to “legislate in a way that is overtly prescriptive”, insisting it did “not want to limit people’s freedoms.”
“Why would we limit the freedoms of the internet? It would be absolutely folly and crazy to do that… It’s a balancing act. You balance the right of the copyright holder with the right of the person to use the internet.”
The minister said the purpose of the legislation was to keep “on side of” the EU’s directives on copyright and e-commerce, which had already guaranteed the rights of individual users to use the internet and of Internet Service Providers to conduct a business.
If a judge comes along and if somebody seeks to have an injunction, the judge has to bear in mind that there’s already a judgement there … which clearly states that you cannot put a blocking mechanism or start monitoring an individual’s behaviour.
He was referring to the ruling of the European Court of Justice in the Scarlet case, where the court found it was illegal for countries to force internet providers to block filesharing on a blanket basis at their own expense.
In that case, a Belgian internet provider successfully claimed that an injunction laid down by a Belgian court – which forced it to install expensive filters and monitor all traffic through its network – was an unfair infringement of its freedom to conduct its business.