New legislation which the Irish government says will change current copyright law to 'balance the rights of copyright holders and individual internet users' was published on Thursday.
Fine Gael Irish Minister of State for Research and Innovation Sean Sherlock released the new document which, if signed, will allow copyright holders to seek legal injunctions against anyone they believe to be infringing their copyright.
But the minister's action has alarmed a growing segment of the Irish public, including a number of Irish lawyers, who have created an online petition to protest it and who believe that a Minister's order is a far too comprehensive means of introducing such significant legislative change.
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Calls for a full Irish parliament debate on the matter are growing. According to a report in the Irish Times, by Thursday afternoon the number of signatures on the Stop Sopa Ireland petition established by law lecturer TJ McIntyre and solicitor Simon McGarr and others had reached over 49,000.
Responding to the disquiet, the Minister told the press that concerns his proposal mirrored the Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa) in the United States were 'not based on fact.' The purpose of the statutory instrument, the minister explained, was 'simply to provide explicitly' that injunctions may be sought as obligated by two EU directives.
Further clarifying his position, the Minister said that such injunctions were available in all other member states of the European union.
'Europe is quite unlike the United States. In granting any injunctions, an Irish court must take account of Court of Justice of the European Union judgements. The court must consider the rights of any person (including businesses) likely to be affected,' Sherlock told the Irish Times. He added that he was thinking in particular of 'the importance of online content and digital businesses in the Irish context.'
Deputy Catherine Murphy (Independent) expressed her concern about the 'vagueness' of the language of the measure and said it would be left entirely up to the courts to establish the grounds for which an injunction might be granted.
Sherlock countered that it was 'absolutely not' Sopa legislation, claiming that the 'central point' was that internet service providers, users and the copyright holders needed to come together as stakeholders to discuss the issue.
Law lecturer McGarr and solicitor McIntyre travelled to parliament buildings to lobby government leaders on Thursday.
'The Minister has not been listening to the constructive criticisms and legitimate concerns of those opposing this measure,” McCarr said.