Illegal music downloading became popular with Web sites like Napster

It's three strikes and you're out in Ireland for illegal music downloaders!

Leading Irish Internet provider Eircom has said it will shut off users on their third illegal file download.

The decision came in a settlement, the first of its kind, with four major record companies: EMI, Sony, Universal and Warner.

Initially, the record companies wanted Eircom to install the software necessary to detect the "fingerprint" of copyrighted music shared within its network.

But Eircom hesitated, claiming that the software could interfere with its service and could infringe on Irish privacy laws.

The two sides compromised and agreed to send warnings to users who download music illegally, and disconnect them if they do so three times.

Eircom will be provided with the IP addresses (individual computer addresses) of people who illegally upload or download copyrighted music and share them online.

They say that other Irish Internet Service Providers should soon follow in their step.

Music piracy is a much-debated issue in the entertainment industry. Since the 1990s, when music file sharing Web sites such as Napster became popular, CD sales have plummeted.

Napster's illegal downloading service was shut down by the music industry, but music piracy is still prevalent on the Web.

Not surprisingly, the head of the Irish Recorded Music Association is pleased with the Eircom deal.

Willie Kavanagh told Ireland’s national broadcaster RTE, “It's something we've had to work together to make sure this got to a stage where we can deal with what is an enormous difficulty within the Irish and worldwide record business.”

Similar battles against music piracy are being fought this side of the ocean. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has said it will forge similar ties with U.S. ISPs to try and put a stop to piracy in the U.S.

Though this may be good news for people in the music biz, it’s quite the opposite for your regular Joe who just wants to access some good music.

"This is completely unfair," fumed Caoife Jordan. "Everyone knows the quality of music downloads is poor but to me it's just like radio used to be.

"No-one ever worried about us taping radio shows and albums and sharing the tapes, so why are they so concerned about us sharing online?

"Maybe Eircom should concentrate on making the Internet work faster instead of cutting us off!"