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Sherlock agrees to full Dáil debate before signing online copyright law

Seán Sherlock has committed not to signing his proposed new law on online copyright without first holding a Dáil debate on it.

Junior minister Sean Sherlock has agreed to a full Dáil debate before he signs controversial new laws on online copyright protection.
Junior minister Sean Sherlock has agreed to a full Dáil debate before he signs controversial new laws on online copyright protection.
Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

THE JUNIOR MINISTER behind proposed new laws giving copyright holders the power to seek court injunctions over copyright breaches has agreed not to sign the new laws before holding a full Dáil debate on them.

Innovation minister Seán Sherlock last night committed to holding a full Dáil debate on his proposed legislation, which takes the form of a ‘statutory instrument’ – meaning it does not formally need the approval of the Dáíl or Seanad before it is passed.

Sherlock told TheJournal.ie that there “will be a debate before it is signed”, though the timing of that Dáil debate was a matter to be decided by the whips of the various political parties.

It is thought that arrangements will be made later today so that a debate can be held in the Dáíl next week, allowing TDs to voice their concerns over the controversial plans which have met with major online resistance.

A brief debate was held on the subject in the Dáíl during yesterday’s Topical Issues session, but was limited to 15 minutes because of time constraints.

Though Sherlock had said during that debate that he remained committed to implementing new laws, a full debate will give other TDs a chance to press the minister on the exact impact it will have on the lives of Ireland’s internet users and technology companies.

Details of the planned legislation – which is being brought forward in order to resolve a legal vacuum – had prompted attacks on the websites of two government departments from members of the Anonymous movement earlier this week.

Directives

The legislation, which has been dubbed the ‘Irish SOPA’ because of its potentially wide-ranging ramifications, would give the likes of music publishers the ability to seek a High Court injunction in order to block traffic to websites which facilitate the breach of their intellectual property.

That right is granted by a European Union directive on copyright – but a High Court judge ruled last year that Irish law did not provide for it, meaning Ireland could face EU fines for not introducing laws demanded by the EU’s directive.

A later ruling by the European Court of Justice, however, ruled that asking internet service providers to filter traffic carried on their networks for the purposes of stopping illegal filesharing was a breach of other EU e-commerce directives allowing the free conduct of business.

An online petition opposing the planned legislation, launched on Monday night, had gathered over 55,000 signatures at midnight on Friday morning.

One of the organisers of that petition, digital rights activist TJ McIntyre, said the latest draft of the legislation, published yesterday, did not take account of the concerns raised by activists and internet service providers.

In full: Seán Sherlock’s draft proposals for online copyright law

Video: Yesterday’s Dáil discussion on the controversial ‘Irish SOPA’

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

Q&A: Everything you need to know about Ireland’s SOPA

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Gavan Reilly

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