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Online copyright law

'It wasn’t SOPA, we were not doing SOPA': Sherlock defends controversial copyright law

Junior Minister Seán Sherlock has spoken at length about the controversy surrounding a law enacted last year that some believe will restrict internet freedom.

THE GOVERNMENT MINISTER who was severely criticised over a controversial statutory instrument which reinforced Ireland’s online copyright laws has defended his actions, insisting that the State had to comply with EU directives.

In an interview with this week, Seán Sherlock spoke extensively for the first time about the furore that arose in early 2012 when he was accused of implementing an Irish version of ‘SOPA‘, a controversial US law which some argued threatened internet freedom.

The Minister of State for Research and Innovation said this week that it was not ‘SOPA’ that Ireland was introducing when the law was enacted:

He insisted that a case before the High Court had identified a lacuna in Irish law which meant the government was required to sign the statutory instrument into law.

“We had to implement a statutory instrument which put us onside with the EU copyright directive. [Then] people within the community stated that we were doing ‘SOPA.’

“Now ‘SOPA’ is a completely different thing. All we were doing was putting ourselves onside with the European Union legislation in relation to copyright.”

Since the law was signed, the High Court has ordered six Irish internet service providers to block The Pirate Bay file-sharing website, but the government has insisted that there is no risk of legal internet communications being targeted.

Sherlock said that the government has moved to “remove barriers to innovation” by establishing a group to review copyright legislation in Ireland, chaired by TCD Professor Eoin O’Dell, which is due to report its findings next week.

“We have ten of the top ten born on the internet companies here within our midst. No government wants to restrict internet access,” Sherlock insisted.

The Labour TD said that there was balance to be struck, saying: “It’s the challenge of our times, there is nobody more cognisant of the fact that how we consume music has changed dramatically.”

Sherlock also said that he has never used a torrent site and that he found himself receiving a “torrent of abuse” over the issue on social media last year, some of which was, he said, disturbing:

Camera and editing by Michelle Hennessy

Read: Bruton insists ‘Pirate Bay’ ruling will not mean bans on legal content

Ireland’s ‘SOPA’ legislation: The big arguments for and against

Explainer: Everything you need to know about Ireland’s SOPA

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