I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan.
Protection of Intellectual Property Rights: Statements
Before getting into the main part of my speech on intellectual property, it might be timely and appropriate to discuss some issues pertaining to the recent court case which has motivated this motion to a large extent.
The recent judgment by Mr. Justice Peter Charleton in the High Court case between EMI Records (Ireland) Limited, Sony Music Entertainment Ireland Limited, Universal Music Ireland Limited, Warner Music Ireland Limited and WEA International Incorporated on the one hand and UPC Communications Ireland Limited on the other is an important decision, and one that is being examined carefully. The recording companies concerned sought injunctions against UPC, an Internet service provider, ISP, in respect of the downloading of copyrighted material via the Internet. The court declined to grant such injunctions.
The area in question is complex and encompasses issues such as the illegal downloading of copyrighted material, the treatment of ISPs in such circumstances, the obligations imposed on member states by EU law and the upcoming requirement for Ireland to transpose the 2009 framework directive on a common regulatory framework for electronic communication networks and services.
Mr. Justice Charleton's judgment is lengthy, running to 78 pages. His ruling ranges across the various provisions in copyright, e-commerce and national telecommunications legislation and the relevant European law in each of these areas.
I apologise for interrupting the Minister of State, but I must ask for guidance. I do not see the material the Minister of State is referring to in the script I have received.
As I stated, it would be timely to deal with this matter beforehand.
That is helpful, but the Minister of State is reading from something and I wonder whether it would be possible to receive a copy.
We will certainly try to provide the Senator with a copy. We have one with us.
The Minister of State is correct, in that the Charleton judgment goes to the heart of the issue. If I could have a copy, it would be helpful.
I will give the Senator this copy.
I thank the Minister of State. He is kind and I appreciate receiving this copy.
Having obtained a copy of the judgment, my Department referred it to the Attorney General's office for advice, which we are currently awaiting. As the Minister of State with responsibility for intellectual property, I am concerned to ensure generally that the interests of rights holders in respect of copyrights and performances are upheld and not infringed by illegal activity on the Internet or elsewhere. However, I must also have regard to the position of our ISPs. Articles 12 to 14, inclusive, of the European e-commerce directive provide defences to ISPs that transmit digital content, including copyrighted material, by electronic means on the Internet. These articles have been transposed in Ireland through regulations 16 to 18, inclusive, of SI 68 of 2003. Regulation 16 provides that ISPs are not liable for information transmitted by them in a communication network where an ISP establishes that it is a "mere conduit" or carrier of the information. Regulation 17 similarly covers caching or temporary storage. Regulation 18 deals with hosting or permanent storage. However, these regulations do not affect the power of any court to make an order against an ISP requiring that it not infringe or cease infringing any legal right.
The Departments of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation and Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, the latter under the Minister, Deputy Ryan, are in contact regarding the case, but the advice of the Attorney General on the case's implications is awaited. Senators will appreciate that I am not in a position to speak further about the case or its potential implications. The matter is a sensitive one, as I am sure Senator Norris is acutely aware.
I will address two distinct issues relating to the importance of protecting intellectual property — first, the importance of intellectual property protection to business and the State supports for a strong innovation environment and, second, the importance of having a sound and balanced regulatory environment for the protection of intellectual property. The concept of intellectual property covers a wide range of creations of the human mind, from the inventions, symbols and designs used in industry to literary and artistic works. The most common vehicles for protecting intellectual property rights are patents for inventions, trademarks for branding and copyright for artistic works such as books, films and paintings. Intellectual property protection and innovation are inextricably linked. The products resulting from innovation generally come at a considerable cost to companies in terms of human and financial resources. It is the facility to protect the fruits of this investment with intellectual property through patents, trademarks and copyrighting that provides the incentive to industry to invest in research and development.
Patents are one of the most valuable assets to companies seeking to protect innovation. They are central to supporting innovative companies across the business sector in several ways. First, they add economic value to inventions by giving them a monopoly for a fixed term. This can help to secure funding for commercialisation of inventions and bring products to the market, which leads to profitable commercial returns. Second, they allow for the circulation of cutting edge technological information. In exchange for the monopoly right gained in a patent, applications are published after an initial period from their filing or priority date. This encourages inventors and their competitors to research further developments arising from this information and often results in further technological advances and breakthroughs. Third, patent licenses encourage inventors, investors and manufacturers to co-operate. This particular co-operation linkage is key to innovation. Licenses are the key means of exchange in the knowledge society marketplace for ideas and often result in furthering research and cutting the time to market.
Trademarks facilitate the development of branding, enable consumers to identify a product or service of a particular company and help to distinguish one product from other similar products. Trademarks are often associated with certain characteristics of goods or services such as taste, quality, reliability or value for money.
A strong trade mark associated with a successful product can ensure the continued success of the product even after a patent has expired and competing products become available. It is important for business to register and protect their trade marks in order that quality goods and services are identified with their trade mark by their customers.
It is widely accepted that a high level of copyright protection is generally essential for the encouragement of intellectual creation. Copyright ensures the maintenance and development of creativity in the overall interests of authors, producers, consumers and the public at large. A rigorous and effective system for the protection of copyright, and what are deemed to be related rights, is necessary to provide authors and producers with a just reward for their creative efforts and also to encourage producers and publishers to continue to invest in creative works. In the modern world of business, the intangible assets of a company are often more valuable than the company's physical assets. Identifying and protecting the intellectual property in a business can increase competitiveness and assist the business in a variety of ways such as building a strong branding strategy, providing access to capital or through profitable licensing agreements.
It is imperative that Irish companies, in particular small and medium-sized enterprises, understand the importance of protecting their innovative products and services through the use of intellectual property. The importance of providing an environment for business in which innovative ideas are encouraged and rewarded has long been and continues to be a core objective of this Government. Commercialisation and the transfer of technology flourish where intellectual property rights and associated know-how are guaranteed and legally enforced. Ireland's legislative framework in intellectual property and in other relevant fields enables companies here to create, protect and exploit their intellectual property assets. An additional important consideration is that it provides researchers in our third level institutes with the means and incentive to commercialise this intellectual property for the benefit of industry and ultimately the economy and taxpayers.
In recent years, the Government has been implementing measures that encourage the development of intellectual property, IP, by means other than intellectual property regulation, and this has included a range of supports to encourage commercialisation, technology transfer and the generation of intellectual property where possible and feasible. There are two reasons the State provides this support: to increase the level of intellectual property transferred to industry from research in higher education institutions for the benefit of the economy; and to facilitate the development of high quality and effective systems and policies to ensure that the intellectual property is identified, protected and transferred, where possible into companies in Ireland. These have both been identified by the recent task force on innovation as key priority areas for improving and growing Ireland's knowledge economy.
Enterprise Ireland provides a range of supports to encourage the generation of intellectual property. These include specialist support to third level institutions in identifying and exploiting intellectual property, financial support for research and resulting intellectual property protection, support for emerging start-ups and linking inventions emerging from different universities where appropriate. Enterprise Ireland also funds commercialisation specialists in the technology transfer offices. This measure supports a network of dedicated staff placed within the commercialisation function of the universities and institutes of technology and working directly with them to ensure that best use is made of research outputs with commercial potential. The supported intellectual property provides a vehicle that is critical to the successful licensing of academic research to existing, spin-off or campus companies and in this way encourages products based on the technology to reach the marketplace. Ireland's tax system has for some time encouraged both the creation and management of intellectual property, by means of our 25% research and development tax credit, patent royalty exemption, and, most recently, our new 2009 IP tax deduction regime, along with making Ireland an attractive environment for foreign direct investment with our 12.5% corporation tax rate.
Effective IPR enforcement is an essential part of protecting the health and safety of individuals, because certain counterfeited products such as medicines, foodstuffs, body care articles and children's items that are produced in an unregulated environment can pose a serious health threat. It is very important that we recognise the link between intellectual property crime and organised crime. Organised crime groups use the trade in fake goods to generate profit and to fund other forms of organised crime, such as human trafficking, money laundering, firearms and illegal drugs. The Internet and digital technology have presented criminals with an efficient, high-speed and anonymous way to conduct IP crime across borders and continents. Although luxury goods have traditionally been targeted for counterfeiting and piracy, today a wider variety of mass consumption goods are affected, for example, foodstuffs, cosmetics, spare parts for cars, toys and various types of technical or electrical equipment.
Due to the clandestine nature of many counterfeiting and piracy activities it is difficult to accurately assess their scale. The OECD published a report in November 2009 which confirms that counterfeiting and piracy of tangible goods is a major impediment to global trade and is getting worse. The report estimates that global trade in counterfeit and pirated goods more than doubled in this decade to approximately US $250 billion in 2007, up from just over $100 billion in 2001. That figure does not include goods produced and consumed within countries. The real figure is, therefore, possibly far higher than that estimate.
The international scale of the problem is also clear at European level. The European Commission's annual report on EU customs actions shows an upward trend in the number of goods suspected of violating intellectual property rights. In 2009, over 43,500 cases of such goods were stopped by customs, totalling 118 million articles. It is clear from even a quick glance at these issues that the nature of IP crime means it must be tackled at national and international levels. This requires a collaborative approach between state authorities and the private sector. A number of important initiatives at international level are under way.
Within the EU there are already a number of legal instruments in place, including the enforcement directive, but in order to make them more effective the European Council adopted a resolution on a comprehensive EU anti-counterfeiting and anti-piracy plan. This resolution endorsed the need to step up the fight against fake goods. In 2009, the European Commission launched the European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy. The observatory is composed of members from both the private and public sectors and is intended to raise awareness and share information and best practices in enforcing intellectual property rights.
I wish to say a few words about the proposed anti-counterfeiting trade agreement, more commonly known as ACTA. The negotiating parties to this agreement include the EU, the United States and other developed countries, as well as a number of emerging economies. The basic aim of the ACTA is to establish effective enforcement standards for existing intellectual property rights. In this regard it should be borne in mind that, from an EU perspective, intellectual property rights account for a large proportion of the EU's GDP and are important to high-growth sectors. The EU can only remain competitive if it can rely on innovation, creativity, quality and brand exclusivity. These are some of the EU's main comparative advantages on the world market and intellectual property rights protect them all. However, the means of adequately enforcing those rights in important export markets to date have been limited.
The agreement aims to establish a comprehensive, international framework that will assist its members to effectively combat the infringement of IPRs. It will not create new IP rights, nor will it define their acquisition, duration, scope of protection or registration. ACTA countries will enforce the rights as they are defined domestically. It will encompass a range of provisions on the enforcement of intellectual property rights, including civil and criminal measures, customs measures, Internet enforcement measures, as well as robust co-operation mechanisms among ACTA parties to assist in their enforcement efforts. Following 11 rounds of international negotiations over two and a half years, a substantial level of agreement has been reached and almost all outstanding issues have been resolved. While some further work needs to be completed, I expect a deal will be finalised in the near future.
Let me say a few words about enforcement of IP legislation in Ireland. As Members of the House will be aware, the Minister for Justice and Law Reform is preparing a White Paper on crime. In this regard a number of discussion documents have been prepared, the most recent of which deals with organised and white collar crime. The discussion paper contains a section on intellectual property crime and points to the active role played by the Garda Síochána and Revenue's customs service in ensuring effective enforcement of the legislation. The Garda Síochána has adopted a proactive approach in tackling IP enforcement issues with the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, NBCI, which was established as a response to organised crime. The anti-racketeering unit within the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation provides expert guidance and support to divisional and district Garda personnel tasked with investigating the importation and sale of illicit and counterfeit goods, including cigarettes. The sale of goods at markets is the subject of regular and ongoing monitoring by the Garda Síochána for counterfeit goods and products. Revenue's customs service enforcement has concentrated mainly on the points of importation into the State and has resulted in the seizure of growing quantities and varieties of products. In 2009 there were 1,019 intellectual property rights seizures valued at €2.5 million, in addition to the seizure of 116 million counterfeit cigarettes.
In recent decades, due to the global nature of trade and the advent of Internet trading the need for global IP protection was identified. The World Intellectual Property Organisation, WIPO, was established in 1967 to promote the protection of intellectual property throughout the world. WIPO develops conventions, treaties and other regulations on intellectual property protection through co-operation among member states and in collaboration with other international organisations.
The most important single source of rule making in IP is now the European Union. Many of the provisions included in Irish primary and secondary legislation are in transposition of EU directives on intellectual property into Irish law. The Commission's work over the years in harmonising and co-ordinating national approaches in the IP field has had a powerful effect in creating and securing the benefits for all member states in the Internal Market. New issues and proposals continue to surface. Several significant Commission proposals are under active negotiation. One of these is the proposed EU patent. Unfortunately the current European patent system, which is administered by the European Patents Office, is expensive and complex, particularly its translation requirements. After grant, the applicant must validate the patent in each country designated in which protection is required. This can be very laborious and expensive. It can also lead to legal uncertainty because if a patent is infringed, the patent holder must initiate legal proceedings in each individual country, with often different legal outcomes. Today, obtaining a patent in Europe costs ten times more than securing one in the US.
In April 2007 the European Commission put forward a communication to the Council entitled Enhancing the Patent System in Europe. The Commission set out to get agreement on creating a simple, cost-effective and high quality one-stop-shop patent system in Europe, both for examination and grant as well as post-grant procedures, including litigation. Negotiations on a future European Union patent are at an advanced stage. The proposed EU patent would provide protection covering all EU member states and substantially reduce costs toindustry. Ireland has long-supported the proposed European Union patent as a way of encouraging competitiveness, innovation and reducing costs especially for small and medium-sized firms.
Another important area in the protection of intellectual property is that of copyright. The principal European directive in the area of copyright, the Copyright in the Information Society Directive 2001, essentially harmonised the right of reproduction, the right of communication to the public, the right of making available to the public and the distribution right. The basic principle underlying the harmonisation effort was to provide the rightsholders with a high level of protection and, accordingly, the scope of exclusive rights was very broadly defined at that time.
In its 2009 Green Paper on copyright, entitled Copyright in the Knowledge Economy, the European Commission pointed out that copyright laws have traditionally attempted to strike a balance between ensuring a reward for past creation and investment and the future dissemination of knowledge products by introducing a list of exceptions and limitations to allow for certain, specific activities which are usually regarded as desirable in the public interest. These generally pertain to areas such as academic and scientific research, the activities of libraries and archives and the rights of disabled people.
The Commission considered that the main conclusion from the debate was that copyright policy must be geared toward meeting the challenges of the Internet-based knowledge economy. It prioritised access to information products for people with disabilities, licensing solutions for mass-scale digitisation in a European context, and an impact assessment on how to foster the clearance issues that arise in the case of orphan works.
The most recent European economic initiative, the Single Market Act, which is designed to achieve a competitive social market economy, underlines that the absence of a European framework for the efficient management of copyright across the European Union is significantly complicating the process of making knowledge and cultural goods available online. In order to create a single European digital market, the potential of online distribution must be used effectively by enhancing the availability of creative content while at the same time ensuring that right-holders obtain adequate remuneration and protection for their works. Accordingly, the Commission has signalled that it will now be submitting a proposal for a framework directive on the management of copyright, with the aim of opening up access to online content by improving the governance, transparency and electronic management of copyright. It will also, next year, be proposing a directive on the issue of orphan works.
At the same time, there are those who advocate a more American-type approach to the issue of copyright on this side of the Atlantic. These advocates feel that a broader approach should be adopted in relation to exceptions and exemptions from copyright. They argue that digital innovators in the United States have benefited from the more flexible regime there of exceptions to copyright rules under the broad heading of "fair use". They contrast this with what they categorise as Europe's catalogue of precisely defined exceptions which, they feel, are too inflexible to accommodate technological, business and societal developments. They consider that this prescriptive approach appears increasingly maladapted to the digital economy and that it deprives EU-based innovators of the flexibility that has stimulated the growth of high-technology businesses in the US. This idea, which is being strongly propounded by the information and communications technology sector in Ireland, will also have to be taken into account and examined carefully in the context of any changes being contemplated in the area of copyright legislation in future.
I thank the Leas-Chathaoirligh for providing me with this opportunity to address the Seanad on such an important topic. In outlining the importance of intellectual property to business and to innovation I hope I have reassured the Seanad that the Government and I as the responsible Minister of State recognise that protection of intellectual property is a key factor in developing the smart economy.
Protection of intellectual property is high on the priority list in the European Union also, and that is why there are so many initiatives under discussion in regard to intellectual property protection and the fight against counterfeiting and piracy. The Government is committed to fostering an environment that will continue to help Irish-based industry to reap the benefits of investment, research, innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship which are the building blocks of the smart economy plan and will pave the way to renewed growth in the economy and a way out of this dreadful recession.
I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan.
Intellectual property issues are getting more and more attention these days. Unfortunately, far too often the issues are framed in such a way as to highlight controversy and polarise debate. In fact, there is much about intellectual property protection on which everyone can agree.
To arrive at a fuller understanding of the issue, it is worth spending some time considering how intellectual property rights developed and what role they play in achieving widely shared objectives. What comes out of such an examination is the conclusion that intellectual property protection is a vital part of social, cultural and economic development. Protection of intellectual property rights alone will not necessarily bring about this development. However, it is hard to imagine that a country could ever reach these goals in the absence of such protection.
The essential idea behind copyright is simple. Artists and creators should be able to enjoy the fruits of their labour for a specified time, after which the material becomes available for public use. Society benefits because this incentive to create will yield a rich and varied cultural menu for its citizens. Indeed, one can say that copyright protection is a necessary ingredient for ensuring cultural wealth in our societies. If copyright protection is important for reaching cultural objectives, then it is equally true that the theft of these copyrighted goods, that is, the pirating of cultural works, is a threat to the creative sectors in our societies. While there has been much press reportage recently regarding online downloading of music and movies in developed countries, in fact it is in the developing world that much of the serious damage is being done. Many new musical voices, new authors and new stories on film around the world have never been made available, simply because the incentives were not there for these artists to take a risk. They believed that whatever they produced would immediately be pirated — stolen — and they would not be provided the means to develop their talents.
This is not an abstract argument. It has happened on all continents. A good example is Hong Kong, where a thriving movie industry was so hurt by rampant piracy that, just a few years ago, observers were predicting it would disappear from the film making map. Today, the industry there is in better shape and moviegoers around the world enjoy new and exciting releases primarily because the Hong Kong authorities took decisive action to combat the piracy problem in their jurisdiction. Studios in the movie industry in Bangladesh went on strike in March 2004 to protest against the problem of piracy and to demand action by government. Similar developments have taken place in the world of music. Ethiopian musicians went on a seven-month strike in 2003 to press for better anti-piracy measures from government. These artists all understood the importance of protecting their works from piracy.
Ireland has earned a reputation internationally as an island of creativity that has produced some of the world's finest music and literature. For a small island of 4 million people we are unique in having groups like the Chieftains, U2, the Corrs, the Cranberries and more recently the Script dominating the world stage. Consequently, we need to ensure the intellectual property rights of these and all our artists and innovators are protected by law. The recent High Court decision on the UPC case to which the Minister of State referred can only lead us to conclude that there is no such legal protection. This is very damaging for the international reputation of Ireland as a jurisdiction with appropriate legal protection for all kinds of intellectual property and copyright generally.
In his judgment, Mr. Justice Peter Charleton ruled that Irish law does not require Internet service providers to identify and disconnect illegal file sharers but cautioned that the lack of such provisions in Irish law technically means Ireland is not in compliance with European law and that considering its place within the European Union, the Government must, therefore, address the issue. Mr. Justice Charleton also condemned illegal file sharing. His judgment states that it "not only undermines business but ruins the ability of a generation of creative people in Ireland and elsewhere to establish a viable living" and that "it is destructive of an important native industry". From the wording of Mr. Justice Charleton's judgment, it is obvious he was most anxious to provide the kind of protection our artists need but that legally he had no basis for so doing. The Government must now, as a matter of urgency, do its job properly and implement the required EU legislation without further delay. Mr. Justice Charleton's judgment could not be any clearer on where responsibility lies.
With ever increasing broadband speeds, it will soon be possible to download a movie or a very complex computer game in a matter of seconds. Without the proper legislative protection in place, Irish businesses in these sectors will go to the wall. I believe the recent demise of the Chartbusters video rental chain, with a loss of almost 90 jobs, can be partly attributed to illegal downloading of movies. Xtra-Vision, our other major video chain, which employs 1,600 people, must also be under threat from this source.
Ireland is rapidly becoming a world leader in computer gaming. The computer games industry is an exciting field, currently outselling the film industry worldwide. Recent research shows that computer gaming is rapidly broadening its demographic user base. Industry statistics show that the average age of those who play video games is not 14 years but 34 years. Last year, a quarter of all those who played video games were over 50 years of age. The same figures show that two thirds of all households have a video game console or device and half of all parents now play video games with their children at least once a week.
Ireland is rapidly establishing itself as a world leader in computer gaming. We have created companies like Havok, which had its genesis just yards from here in Trinity College and which is now one such world leader in this field. Since 2007, Havok-powered console and PC games generated combined sales revenue totalling more than $4.2 billion in the US market alone. Computer game development is innovative and exciting from a technological and creative perspective, providing career opportunities for imaginative, logical and energetic people. To nurture such development in Ireland we need strong legislation to protect the intellectual property rights of gaming developers and their businesses.
This challenge we face is not some nebulous high-minded debate on the ethics or otherwise of illegal downloading, rather it is about protecting real Irish jobs and providing for the creation of many thousands of new jobs. I am informed that such protection does not require a whole new raft of legislation and that a statutory instrument would suffice to give such protection. Let us have that protection and let us have it now.
I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan. This industry is facing a serious challenge. Senator Cannon has covered much of what I was going to say in terms of outlining to the House the serious challenges facing the industry, the importance of the industry and the huge role it can play in recovery of the economy.
The High Court ruling on the UPC case was given three weeks ago. I am aware the advice of the Attorney General has been sought on the ruling. Three weeks is a long time when an industry's back is to the wall, with approximately 60% of its turnover achieved in the five to six weeks prior to Christmas, which is a crucial time in the calendar year for this industry.
This industry has been tremendous for the economy. It has been possibly the best ambassador worldwide for Ireland plc. In terms of the success worldwide of our artists, including Riverdance, Lord of the Dance, U2, Enya and others, we have punched way our above our weight despite having a population of only 4.5 million people. I know that the Minister of State, Deputy Lenihan, is supportive of this industry. He has a track record in an industry not unrelated to the music industry. I must declare at this stage that I have a vested interest in the industry, having been involved in it since 1963. It has been an incredible industry for anyone with talent, for innovators and for creators. One does not have to be a rich man's son or daughter to become a success in this industry, which is the beauty of it. The person with ability and creativity is rewarded. I have personal experience of this industry.
I am baffled that obtaining the advice of the Attorney General on a ruling can take three weeks. This is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. I propose that we adjourn this debate until such time as the Attorney General's advice has been received, thus allowing the Minister of State and his Department an opportunity to deal with the serious crisis facing this industry. For the innovator, creator or songwriter, for the person who records the artist or the material or for the person who invests heavily in having artists recorded and in the distribution of records and television advertising in this regard to be told by Government that they will not receive any money for downloads is the greatest insult of all. Ireland is proud of its achievements to date.
Every January since 1977 I have attended the world music publishers conference in Cannes. On one occasion an Irish Minister also attended. Enterprise Ireland and its predecessor have always looked after us and provided us with a stand at the conference where the world of entertainment and music come together. In four days, we planned and met representatives of all the other countries that attended, in particular the English speaking countries. The conference provides people with small budgets an opportunity to conduct business and discuss their intellectual property rights with the biggest people in the business, be they from Los Angeles, Tokyo and so on.
Intellectual property rights, with energy saving initiatives, are, as I said on the Order of Business, the future of the economy. This industry has the potential to make billions of euro for the economy every year. The industry, which has been a major contributor to the economy for the past 50 years, has asked for our assistance. It has been an incredible contributor in terms of what it has done in the world of film. The film industry has been a great ambassador for the country but to think that a film could be invested in and made here in Ireland and then not receive any royalties is a disgrace. That must be viewed by Departmental officials, the Minister of State and the Government as an urgent case to be dealt with and not something to be left for three weeks while waiting to get an opinion.
The judge highlighted the deficiencies, and Senator Cannon covered that point as well. He said the deficiency in Irish law resulted in Ireland currently having no mechanism to disconnect Internet users who engage in illegal downloads and commented that this results in Ireland breaching its obligations under European Union legislation.
We were always proud of the massive contribution made by our senior officials in Departments who give assistance to our Ministers and Ministers of State and a backup facility. The senior officials in this Department must give the Minister of State a backup facility and get this decision from the Attorney General's office immediately, in the next 48 hours if possible, because as the judgment states, we are breaching our obligations under European Union legislation.
The multinational companies which took this case to the High Court must be backed totally because the difficulty for those Irish companies operating in the area is that, ultimately, they must justify the investment by those multinationals being based in Ireland. I am unashamedly making the case for them on what they have achieved over the years for the industry in general and for Irish artists who are not being protected in any way, as was stated.
Article 8(3) of the copyright directive and Article 12(3) of the electronic commerce directive provide that injunctions should be available against Internet service providers, forcing them to terminate illegality on their networks regardless of whether they are responsible for it. Those two articles say it all.
I call on the Minister to make us here in Ireland compliant. We have a proud industry and are a proud people. We have had huge success and the least we can do is put the law in a European context with our partners in the United Kingdom, the French or any of our other colleagues in Europe. There are many other issues I could outline to the Minister of State and on which I could ask for his assistance because by coming to the House in person, he has shown that he wants to help the industry, for which I thank him.
The solutions to the problem of Internet copyright piracy are available. It is not surprising the legislative response laid down in the Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000 came at a time when the problem was not perceived to be threatening to creativity and the retail economy as it has become in 2010. Technology is changing so quickly it is mind-boggling. What would be covered in law in the month of November possibly might not be covered in law in the month of December. This is a challenging Department for any official to have to work in and keep pace with the changes in technology. It is a new challenge but it is also a new opportunity to get revenue into the country where people can pay their taxes and have money to pay for this service. There is no point in our becoming the wild west of Europe and not being protected because we will not get any investment. No multinational or film company or indeed no one else will come here and spend their money.
I plead for an industry that seeks two simple amendments made to the legislation and I hope the Attorney General's office will give the officials and the Minister the support this issue deserves. I look forward to the Minister and the officials coming back to the House in the not too distant future when we can confirm that will be the case.
Did Senator Cassidy propose a change to the Order of Business?
I am contemplating that because serious frustration has crept in on this issue. Senator Cannon, Senator Dearey, who has a great deal of knowledge in the industry, and I have outlined that. Senator Norris is in the Chamber as well. I am at a crossroads in terms of what is the right thing to do. There is never a wrong time to do the right thing. If the Minister of State is confident he will have a response from the Attorney General's office within the next week or so, we can conclude the debate today. If he is not, we will adjourn it and resume it another day.
Senator Cassidy's speech was the most impassioned I have heard him make in the Seanad for some time. It made me wonder if I was on the right side of the House because I do not always agree with him.
I have been approached by various interests in this area and I believe there is a balance of rights to be achieved because there is an entire generation of young people who believe, rightly or wrongly, with or without legal support, they have developed an entitlement to free downloading. That is embedded in our culture. There will be a public relations difficulty in selling whatever agreement is reached and one must be aware of the interests of young people. That is what I would say is the establishment of apparent rights on the ground. The facts are stark. The majority of young people — 675,000 in the space of a year — are engaged in this practice. That is an enormous number of people and therefore this matter must be addressed without alienating an entire section of our community.
On the other hand, the arguments that have been made here are very good. I have been told by a person directly involved in this area that, for example, U2's first album bombed and without the support of the record industry they would not be in the position they are in now.
That is true.
If that first record had been downloaded and deleted, the commercial interests might have said they were no longer interested in it and washed their hands of it. There are a number of such situations.
A number of artists make their work available freely through the Internet. George Michael made a clear statement on that, as I believe did Sinéad O'Connor. Our business is to function as a Legislature. We are charged with putting laws in place and in doing that, we often get the advice of the courts. In this case a series of legal circumstances have emerged on which a clear series of judgments have been given, in particular in the judgment of Mr. Justice Peter Charleton to which I will refer from time to time in my contribution.
I am grateful to the Minister of State for giving me a copy of his additional remarks. They are somewhat more expansive than is suggested but they are interesting because they relate to the section of his speech that addressed the issue which prompted Senator Cassidy and others to place this matter on the Order which afforded Members this opportunity to engage in statements. I was a little surprised, therefore, that the issues is only dealt with in this short introductory section of the speech. The problem is that although the Minister of State said the European directive has been transposed into Irish law and gave the regulations under which it was transposed, he indicated that where an Internet service provider establishes that it is a mere conduit or carrier of information, it is not liable. Regulation 17 similarly covers caching or temporary storage. Regulation 18 deals similarly with hosting or permanent storage. That is precisely the difficulty Mr. Justice Charleton addressed. The Minister of State went on to say: "However, these regulations do not affect the power of any court to make an order against an ISP [Internet service provider] requiring that [the provider] not infringe or cease infringing any legal right." However, there is nothing about the responsibility of the provider in circumstances in which the entity is clearly and knowingly facilitating what Mr. Justice Charleton described in his judgment as theft and piracy.
What has been recommended is the graduated response process. There is a history of negotiation between the music industry and its representatives and the Internet service providers which I will go into. This process is also in operation in France and has been agreed in the Digital Economy Act in the United Kingdom. Finland and New Zealand have already agreed to pursue this route, while Korea has had a graduated response system in operation for some considerable time. The reason I say we must have some response — we cannot leave a lacuna — is that Mr. Justice Charleton identified the problem and indicated in a written judgment that Irish law was deficient. He has indicated that a solution lies in the graduated response approach to which I have referred. However, he is not in a position to enforce this or give injunctive relief because the European directive was, apparently, inefficiently and inadequately transposed into Irish law.
Irish law could be brought into alignment with the intention of the European directive through a simple statutory instrument. As long as Irish law is deficient, Mr. Justice Charleton has found that all creative Irish industries are losing money. As things stand, there is a black hole which may lead to yet another situation where taxpayers, although they are not implicated, will be left to pick up the bill. I do not think the general public wish it to be the case that because of a legislative deficiency, the music companies will be able to take legal action which will land the taxpayer with the bill. That would be worrying for everybody, particularly in these difficult economic circumstances.
Mr. Justice Charleton stated: "Legislative intervention is required, if the Oireachtas sees fit, to protect constitutional rights to copyright and foster the national resource of creativity." One of the problems is with the wording of the regulations to which the Minister referred which do not use the words that appear to be required; that is, they do not make provision for "blocking, diverting and interrupting internet copyright theft". Because of these three words, we are technically in breach of the European directive.
This comes about because of developments in the technology of recorded music performance and access to it by the public. In particular, there are many new developments that are a little beyond me such as peer-to-peer sharing through iPods. As a person of my generation, I cannot understand why anyone would want several thousand tunes, but then I am not a kind of cultural glutton. If I visit the Louvre, for example, I make sure I do not overindulge and give myself aesthetic indigestion. I head for those one or two rooms in which I can enjoy in a profound way the works of art exhibited. However, I see tourists going through and they visit every room in the place. I do not know how their brains do not explode. They must be insensitive to the arts, but it is very good for tourism.
On a similar basis, I am glad I am not of the iPod generation because I would never willingly sacrifice the thrill and delight of the hunt enjoyed by anyone who is a specialist in musical collections. I was exhilarated for a week when I found an ancient record by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band in Fenning's record shop on the quays. I used to scour the shops and go through all the boxes. I remember the joy of finding something and the immense joy of listening to my treasure trove when I got home. If one can simply push a button and get 1,500 tunes straightaway from one's neighbour, much of the joy is gone. However, we cannot hold back technological advances.
I understand young people believe they are entitled to obtain music and this issue must be dealt with. However, the facts were established in the judgment of Mr. Justice Charleton in which he stated: "Between 2005 and 2009 the recording companies experienced a reduction of 40% in the Irish market for the legal sale of recorded music." That is a devastating blow. I do not know how many industries could tolerate a sudden and spectacular decline of 40% in their market. He went on to state: "Some 675,000 people are likely to be engaged in some form of illegal downloading from time to time." Does that mean we have 675,000 criminals? I do not think so, although we have 675,000 people who are infringing copyright law. The judgment continued that €20 million in sales was being lost annually. That is a big hole in the budget of the music industry. In a stringent comment, the judge stated:
I am satisfied that the business of the recording companies is being devastated by internet piracy. This not only undermines their business but ruins the ability of a generation of creative people in Ireland, and elsewhere, to establish a viable living. It is destructive of an important native industry.
The reason I contacted people involved in the industry and spoke to Senator Cassidy was that I was particularly concerned by an editorial in support of the music industry's position by Niall Stokes in Hot Press, a magazine read by many young people. It was an example of courage to address this situation so openly because I doubt his opinion was all that popular with his readers. This is someone who is passionately concerned about the music industry and not, I think, linked with its profits. I know there is not much sympathy for larger players in the music industry; for instance, people say, “To hell with U2 — they make millions and use their tax haven in Amsterdam.” However, when Niall Stokes speaks, he must be listened to.
The court judgment stated the purpose of the directive was "to ensure that injunctive relief should be available in national law despite an exemption applying." It went on to state: "In failing to provide legislative provision for blocking, diverting and interrupting internet copyright theft, Ireland is not yet fully in compliance with its obligations under European law" and, because of this, "the Court cannot move to provide injunctive relief." What was the effect of this? There is an irony because, I am told, the effect of the publicity surrounding this judgment was to multiply theft. There has been an increase of more than 30% in such downloads because the public were given the impression that it was perfectly legal. Some 60% of Irish Internet suppliers are either actively supporting or prepared to support the music industry. That leaves 40% which are not.
Discussions have been ongoing and they can be considered in chronological form. The Irish Recorded Music Association, IRMA, wrote to all Internet providers to try to bring them on board by asking them to a meeting, but it found it was impossible to find a date that suited everybody and they could not agree on an agenda; therefore, although they did not actually refuse, they did not come along. They had their own interests. There was a case in Belgium which involved new technology from a firm called Audible Magic to filter illegal material from a network. Based on what had happened up to then — the discussions with the Internet providers, plus this new technology — IRMA brought Eircom to court. The case was heard in January 2009, but a settlement was reached, under which it was agreed that IRMA would find evidence of peer infringement and provide it for Eircom which would engage in the graduated response process. IRMA agreed with Eircom that it would negotiate with other service providers to persuade them to operate the same system and various documentation was exchanged.
As IRMA was unsuccessful in persuading either BT Ireland or UPC to co-operate, there was another case. However, before it got to court, the Data Protection Commissioner intervened and there was a suggestion there could be an infringement of legislative provisions concerning privacy, access to data and so forth. That led to another court case in which the judgment, on 16 April 2009, was again given by Judge Charleton who appears to be an expert in this area. It confirmed that none of the Data Protection Commissioner's concerns was valid and that the graduated response by Eircom and IRMA complied with data protection legislation. The way was and is clear. There are sensitivities because young people believe they have a right or entitlement and this must be confronted. The fact that there were 675,000 indicates a strong market and the music industry, like the newspapers, will have to develop innovative ways to collect revenue on the Internet.
The Minister referred to European patents, a matter that must be dealt with. European patent seekers are obliged to pay ten times the cost of seeking a patent in the United States because of bureaucracy, translations, having to apply in multiple courts and so forth. That is nonsense. I have been aware of this issue for some time because I visited the Irish community in Munich, including people working with the European Union, about two years ago. There were a number of very talented Irish people among them who were qualified in copyright law and they were pushing within Europe to have the situation cleared up. We must do this.
The Minister raised the question of fair usage, a very grey area in which I got involved with the Joyce estate. I took the advice of the most prominent lawyer in Ireland on copyright and we were able to find our way around it. However, at the time the Government was not always on the ball where these matters were concerned, particularly with regard to literature. I signalled to it some years ago, when the Joyce estate issue was coming down the line, that we would need to look for a derogation, in the way other countries had done. We were moving from protection of copyright for 50 years to 75 years and the Joyce estate which is extremely voracious and threatening in this area moved in and inhibited creative artists from reinterpreting Joyce and scholars from quoting from Joyce's books in a spirit that defied Joyce's stated views in the matter. The estate got away with it simply because we did not create the exemption as we could have done. This is an increasingly technical matter. There will be developments all the time, particularly electronically, and we must be prepared for them.
I will be interested to read the Minister's response; unfortunately, I cannot stay to hear it. It is a balancing act. This is the Legislature and we are charged with implementing the law. It is clear that there is a defect in it which has been drawn to our attention by the courts and it is our responsibility to ensure this deficiency is remedied. At the same time, we must be conscious of the fact that an entire generation has become accustomed to this and the music industry must be flexible and generous. It must keep its customers with it or, at least, try to transform the freeloaders — we all like to freeload if we can — into customers. They should not be denied access to the music they love, but, at the same time, we must ensure the creative artists and the industry get their just and proportionate reward.
I regularly look back through my record collection. The labels include Two Tone, Terri Hooley's Good Vibrations in Belfast, Stiff Records and Mulligan Records. I revelled in buying albums that did not come from EMI, Warner Music or any of the big labels. There was a real antipathy at the time towards the industry and the punk movement was probably a way of showing two fingers to the music establishment. That is my recollection of my music collection when I was growing up. My worst indulgence was buying really dodgy reproductions on O'Connell Bridge. In fact, the first time I heard a Van Morrison track — I could barely hear it — was from a tape I bought there. However, it led me to buy almost everything Van Morrison ever did through legal means.
There was always a cat and mouse game within the music industry in terms of how one could get the original recording cheaply or for nothing. Historically, there were always attempts to be independent in making, recording and distributing music. Some of the best and most exciting and enduring music I heard came from labels that have long since been bought out or gone to the great rock and roll gig in the sky. However, there was a basic belief copyright was important and a sense that when one was not buying a copyrighted piece of material, one was at least in the twilight zone and, if one was honest, one would acknowledge that one was doing something wrong which was damaging to the person who had produced the music.
One of my albums is "Ghostown" by the Radiators from Space. It is a fantastic, classic Irish album. It is about dismal Dublin in 1980 and 1981 when the recession had really taken hold in the country. What is striking about current times is the desperate ongoing search which I believe will bear fruit for ways out of the recession. What did we do in the early 1980s? It was about adding value to our food production, financial services and finding new ways in which Ireland could trade with the world and add value to its land resources. We were very clever in some of what we did. Everything did not work, but much of it did. Eventually, once we had the public finances in order somewhat later, we traded our way out of it and this became a modern economy, rather than an agrarian one that was under-selling itself in terms of what it produced.
Something similar is happening now. It is about finding the new areas in which we will trade successfully. It is an ongoing process. It is hard to say when the new digital economy began to work for Ireland. I cannot think of the seminal moment but perhaps somebody else can. However, unless we get our intellectual property protection system right, the perception will grow that Ireland is not a safe place in which to develop intellectual property such as games, software, music, film and so forth. There is a serious lacuna in our law which would allow, for example, an employee to walk out of his or her office and share a file that could travel around the world almost instantly, given the speed of modern communications. Removal is simply not a sufficiently fast response to such an action. There is an urgency in regard to the Attorney General's advice which we have all identified; Senator Cassidy did so in a particularly passionate way. There is an immediate need to address this gap. The judgment of Justice Charleton identifies the serious inadequacies in copyright law.
I spoke about the uneasy relationship between copyright and those who sought to avoid it. However, there has been a huge shift because it is now the cultural norm not to buy but to share or download material for free. The response of the record industry has at times been ham-fisted but at other times very clever. I have in mind the group Radiohead which offered an album online and one could pay what one wished for it. It worked for Radiohead, but it does not work for most of the smaller bands and artists who are trying to sell intellectual property on the Internet. I should declare an interest in this regard as I work with many young bands. They are free downloaders and file sharers until it comes to releasing their own album when they become extremely careful to ensure the copyright is writ large on the compact disc sleeve.
They understand they have ownership rights and a right to remuneration for the product which they have gone to trouble and expense to produce and into which they have put their creative energy.
There is a significant cultural challenge and ambivalence around this area and in that context, any kind of legal signal can be either damaging or helpful. That is the reason that the weekend after the IRMA-UPC decision was given, the message went out that it was okay to download and that it was legal. I understand there was a significant spike in download traffic the following weekend when the industry did its measurement. Apparently, the industry takes its measurements when young people are most likely to be downloading, generally between particular hours at weekends, in order that it has an accurate measurement of traffic. The signal given out by that decision, although inaccurate and at odds with the substance of what Mr. Justice Charleton said, was that it was okay to download and people responded accordingly.
The situation needs to change. As Senator Cassidy said, the advice of the Attorney General is urgently needed and it should be rapidly followed by a statutory instrument that will give the State some way of addressing and tackling the issue. It is unfortunate that we are now coming into the period of the year when sales are most likely to spike. This will be followed by a barren period. Even at this stage, a message from the Attorney General would be helpful and would provide a clear message that this downloading is illegal and that artists have a right to remuneration for what they produce.
Much of what has been said here summarises my thoughts on this matter. However, I stress again the urgency of the situation and the need for the industry to play its part, although it should not use mechanisms it might acquire to deal with the issue in a heavy-handed way. By and large, the 675,000 people who engage in downloading illegally see it as a normal behaviour. That needs to be challenged and stopped, but not through enforcement in each individual case but through the Internet service provider being compelled, on foot of an injunction, to block or divert attempts to download. This would be a more suitable response to the illegal trafficking of files.
I remind the Minister of State that time is of the essence. The message must be made clear and the cultural challenge is of particular significance in that regard.
I welcome the Minister of State. I was briefed yesterday by people from the industry ahead of this debate and I found much merit in what they had to say and have sympathy for them and the situation in which they find themselves. When preparing my contribution I thought I might reflect their position, but having listened to what has been said by previous contributors, it seems that argument has been well made. I propose to read into the record an e-mail I received from a young constituent. I would like to ensure that view is on the record for the purpose of this debate. The industry may not thank me for this, but I read it so as to contribute an alternative view:
Dear Senator Ryan,
I am writing to you about tomorrow's debate on the protection of intellectual property.
It is my experience that debate about the development of intellectual property protections is dominated by a particular way of framing the issue, which is encouraged by powerful lobby groups in the intellectual property industries.
For instance, the statements by Minister Ryan following the recent EMI v.UPC High Court case do not suggest to me that Minister Ryan has available to him anything but industry PR and lobbyists to inform his approach to the phenomenon of online copyright infringement.
The arguments that such groups have are by no means meritless, but as a young, informed, regular user of the internet, I am struck by the disparity between the consensus among my representatives in the Oireachtas and the industrial sector, and the consensus among my online peers.
Charleton J's ruling on the UPC case indicates unswerving moral support for EMI, and merely fails to find adequate precedent to rule in EMI's favour.
But there is a growing, but politically underrepresented movement which has quite a different take on the development of intellectual property protections.
This movement overwhelmingly falls within the 18-30 bracket, but also includes internationally renowned academics like legal professor Lawrence Lessig, so it is not without legitimate and respectable representation.
There are substantial worries that increasingly more stringent protection measures for intellectual property, in national legislation, court decisions, and in international trade agreements that are binding on Ireland, will infringe other important rights that citizens ought to have, such as the right to privacy in communication and the right to fair use in free speech.
There are also worries based on sound evidence that intellectual property protectionism is actually harming the creative efforts of a younger generation of artists and musicians.
Meanwhile, Justice Charleton appears convinced that online copyright infringement "not only undermines [UPC's] business but ruins the ability of a generation of creative people in Ireland, and elsewhere, to establish a viable living. It is destructive of an important native industry."
There is a wealth of data, for those who care to look, which roundly disproves this common falsehood.
I maintain that the prevalence of this falsehood is testament to the success of industry lobbying.
The debate in traditional media on these issues is all too often conservative to the point of ignoring the problem entirely.
Newspapers and officials too often continue to allow the debate to be framed by interested parties in words like "piracy" and "theft."
These words are not legally correct characterizations of, for instance, copyright infringement, but they carry undue moral force, which then seems to recommend closing the debate.
The term ‘intellectual property' is misleading in itself, since it encompasses three diverse and dissimilar bodies of law, which are justified differently and which function differently.
Meanwhile a sophisticated and far more advanced approach to the issue has developed online, which is largely opaque to those whose source of information remains the established and local media.
I contend that the legal orthodoxy on the matter, especially under consideration of the history and justification for intellectual property law, will commend a more open approach, a more critical and inquisitive approach, to the debate — one which will cut through the demonstrably false and mendacious claims of, for instance, the copyright industry, about its alleged losses to online copyright infringement.
It is imperative that people such as yourself and your colleagues in the Seanad and in Dáil Éireann do not blindly trust the received opinion on online copyright infringement.
The topic is far too sophisticated for me to represent it to you here in full.
I am also unsure the extent to which the debate in the Senate will touch on these issues, or give them a fair hearing.
I am writing to you so as to ensure that you are aware of a substantial but unheard constituency of dissent for the received opinion that more stringent protectionism here is a "good thing."
I would ask that, under this advisement, you would suggest during the debate that this is an issue with a great deal more sides to it than are presented to the common public, and on which the Oireachtas ought not to make decisions without canvassing the full informed spectrum of opinion on it.
It does so, I claim, at the risk of adding to a set of unjust laws which will only have to be dismantled by future generations, when the material and cultural cost of them becomes clear.
The reason I read this e-mail is that it offers an alternative view which should be heard, taken into account and appraised as to its merits.
I welcome this debate, which relates to an interesting problem that requires immediate action on the part of the Government. When we enacted the Copyright Act in 2001, we did not foresee the spiralling or viralling of downloading that has been going on or the splurge in Internet activity that has become a way of life for so many people. This debate needs to be stripped down to how illegal downloading affects artists.
Ireland has always been home to creativity. We have always nurtured and respected our artists and, in turn, they feel very much part of our community. From Ireland's Golden Age to now, we have always been a creative people who have punched above our weight artistically. One only has to recall Bono, Bob Geldof and various other artists. Ireland has also punched above its weight in science and engineering. Many people, however, are not aware of intellectual property rights and that illegal downloading is theft. We need to examine how to protect the creative person at the end of all of this process. It is easy to get tied up with arguments about large multinational record companies but somewhere, somebody has used their own concept to create an entertainment form, be it a computer game or music, which is essentially their intellectual property.
Entertainment is of important value to society, particularly in this time of doom and gloom. Ireland is known as the country of the sing-song and traditional Irish music is internationally renowned. It is also part of what tourists who visit here love about Ireland. This element of our culture and what we are as a people must be cultivated as it has kept us going in the past. Creative artists, therefore, need to have intellectual property protections in place.
Since 2005, Irish record companies have seen a 40% drop in their sales. Part of this is due to newer electronic music formats such as downloading from music websites. For example, one can immediately download a song after it has been performed on the "X Factor" every Saturday night.
In his recent judgment on UPC, Mr. Justice Peter Charleton said he felt UPC's actions were morally wrong but he could not provide the injunctive relief possible. I am concerned this is a signal to the piracy market that Ireland is the wild west yet again and the full protections to prevent illegal downloading are not in place. To close this loophole, Mr. Justice Peter Charleton said all that was needed was the transposition of Article 8.3 of the copyright directive and Article 12.3 of the e-commerce directive. Both provide that injunctions should be available against Internet service providers, ISPs, forcing them to terminate illegality on their networks, whether they are responsible for it.
If this protection had been transposed into Irish law, UPC would have had to examine, and probably follow, the graduated response Eircom put in place. Are multinational games companies holding back material from Irish ISPs because piracy will subvert their industry and creativity? Having checked Facebook and Twitter after the judgment, I noted there was much support for UPC's position. However, UPC financially benefits because the larger the file the UPC-user downloads, say a movie compared to a song, the more expensive the package the user is put on.
At the last budget the Government committed to making Ireland the world's leading hub in intellectual property rights. Tax incentives and research and development policies were put in place to support this aim. After the Charleton judgment, we need to close this gap in our laws and ensure Ireland is at the forefront of intellectual property rights.
The Minister of State has pointed out the new copyright directive will modernise the law when transposed. For the interim, however, we should examine transposing the existing e-commerce and copyright directives. The message needs to go out that piracy is not acceptable or legal.
Many of the young people involved in piracy – for want of a better word – do not realise what they are doing is illegal. The ISPs are also an important cog in the wheel, needed to send out the message illegal downloading is not acceptable. Eircom's graduated response was reasonable and the other ISPs must follow suit.
Ireland is seen as a creative country. Our creativity has got us through past recessions. We must ensure artists are not ripped off by piracy and their works are protected. The Oireachtas must ensure no infringement of copyright is allowed. Arising from the Charleton judgment, legislative intervention is required. The Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan, has previously done much work in this area and is very passionate about it. I look forward to his response on how we can protect the intellectual property of artists on the Internet.
Most Members have focused on intellectual property protection and the recent Charleton judgment which affects the music industry. I want to focus on the role intellectual property rights can play in creating the smart economy.
The single best document the Government ever produced was the innovation task force report, Building Ireland's Smart Economy – A Framework for Sustainable Economic Renewal. It contains half a dozen recommendations on intellectual property rights, the role of third and fourth level sectors in the economy and what can be done to deliver better access to them for consistent intellectual property protocols and policies in order that they can better commercialise innovation.
Neil Leyden, winner of the Your Country, Your Call competition, made an exceptional proposal for an international digital services centre. That is all about trying to put infrastructure in place, some of which will include resolving the issue to which the Minister of State is about to refer. We already have the companies but Ireland should put together the infrastructure and location to become the best in the world at distributing digital content to everybody else. That detailed proposal was recognised by the President and Dr. McAleese. It is a brilliant idea and in a future debate I would like to hear the Government's views on how we can support this concept. It represents a big part of the future of what intellectual property is and how the country can benefit from it.
I thank all the Senators who contributed to this debate, which is both timely and relevant. I particularly welcome the praiseworthy comments made by Senator Donohoe about the innovation task force report, which I had the privilege to serve on. It is a lodestone document for developing Ireland out of recession and into recovery. It will help us to move up the proverbial value chain and develop high-end solutions, particularly by matching the intellectual creativity of our country with the newly emerging science technologies which are there to be utilised. Essentially, they reduce the distance between Ireland and the global marketplace. This is the key turning point concerning our economic recovery.
Two basic premises underlie the innovation task force document. One concerns how we can become a global location to entice creative and talented individuals, be they scientists or business people, who wish to commercialise intellectual property. We should become a location to do precisely that. Not only will we create some of this valuable intellectual property, but we will also attract people from other countries in Europe and elsewhere who will want to come here, in the same way that Google, Facebook and similar companies have located in Ireland because it is a good place in which to invest.
I saw that happen last week when I visited Irishtown where Betfair is establishing an office with 100 jobs. I met the company's chief executive on that occasion and we had a photocall. Out of curiosity, I asked him why he was coming to Ireland. He said he is locating here as he reckons Ireland is the best place in the world to establish a content-related, Internet-managed service company. Betfair handles 5 million transactions per day with 3 million registered customers around the world. The company has come here because we have skilled people and creative talent to match Betfair's expectation to continue to build and invest in that global business. It was a source of great pride for me to attend that event and announce the creation of 100 new jobs. I saw the chief executive's confident attitude to Ireland. It was a no-brainer for him to bring that business here.
I take Mr. Justice Charleton's judgment very seriously. He has described what is occurring with regard to the UPC issue and the court case generally as theft, and he is right. We should not use ambiguous words here. Copyright infringement is a form of theft and there is no point in pretending that there is an alternative narrative of democratic rights with regard to the abuse or exploitation of the author or copyright owner's material without permission. This level of ambiguity is unacceptable, particularly in Ireland where we are seeking to build a smart economy through using our intellectual or human capital. It is hugely important for us to recognise this.
Approximately eight years ago, the World Bank published a survey of the source of wealth of many nations. In Ireland's case, unusually, 83% of the country's wealth derived from its human and intellectual capital. We must take that empirical evidence into the equation when dealing with the vexed issues surrounding copyright theft, including downloading.
While many Senators' contributions focused on the music industry, we must also remember the film industry. Those are two significant sectors in which Ireland has managed to excel over the years. As a Government Minister, I found it worrying to hear somebody of the calibre of Paul McGuinness, the manager of U2, come out publicly on "Morning Ireland" some weeks ago expressing concern, even before this court decision, about what is happening to the music industry and his artists in particular. The organisation behind the very successful group U2, is building up other smaller bands for the marketplace. It is investing heavily in them because it is expensive to bring a garage-type band to the global market. We must ensure the situation is conducive for such developments.
In case anybody thinks the Attorney General or I have been tardy in this matter, I should remind the House that the opposite is the case. When I was appointed as Minister of State, I was so concerned about what was happening in this sector that I called in the Internet service providers within weeks of taking up this portfolio. I appealed to them to collaborate and reach an agreement with music and other rightsholders' organisations. The most sensible way for us to proceed is not by having a whole new panoply of legislation and regulation. The lesson of the last ten years is that we over-regulated a great many of our industrial sectors. My first instinct therefore is not to regulate or legislate. I believe that the industries involved, be they Internet service providers, telecommunications companies, the music industry or the film industry, must get together and reach an agreement.
I was impressed that one of the music rights organisations did come to an agreement with one telecommunications company, namely, Eircom. I salute the bravery of Eircom's executives for entering into that arrangement. It started in July and we will have to wait and see how it works out in practice. This kind of voluntary agreement between the industries involved, and in dispute in this essential area, is far preferable than going down the road of further regulation or legislation.
We are talking about theft in this regard. As Senator Ryan rightly said we are also talking about the alternative view of young people who like to download music and do not regard it as theft. It is theft, however, and there is no point in pretending otherwise. I accept and applaud Senator Ryan's efforts to put that balancing item into the equation. We cannot, Canute-like, restrict the onward march of the world wide web. It is a free medium, although in this regard the word "free" does not mean not for payment.
This is one of the great challenges for entrepreneurs and others who wish to use this new, emergent and dynamic technology. It is a big struggle for some content providers to find a method of making it pay for them and their business. That in itself is a broader challenge.
Within weeks of being in my current job, and before this High Court ruling by Mr. Justice Charleton, I invited the Internet service providers and telecommunications companies to my office. We had a long discussion, although it was not very profitable. I found it hugely frustrating, annoying and disappointing that when I put down the challenge to them in my Kildare Street office, they were tardy in responding. Psychologically or otherwise, they were not inclined to move towards the sort of recommendations that the majority of Senators have put forward in this debate. They seemed to oppose the three-strike, graduated response and all the other formulae.
To be candid, the problem is that there is no model country in this regard. There is no paragon of virtue regarding the theft of intellectual property. France has moved in a prescriptively legislative manner, but there are privacy and confidentiality issues involved. That is not the role model we should be examining. On the other hand, in the latter period of Labour rule in the UK, my old friend, Lord Peter Mandelson, introduced legislation, which I understand is being challenged in the British courts.
I am putting down a challenge again today to all those involved in this business. The last thing I want to do is provide further legislation and regulation. If they cannot come to a sensible arrangement however, I will have to legislate and examine the matter in a deeper, more far-seeing way. I have tried my best to bring people together. They should get together. In the meantime, I will meet the Attorney General and discuss in detail the optimum response of the State. I wish to protect intellectual property. It is vital the State provides a level of protection to intellectual property and rightsholders which they are entitled to enjoy.
We stood in Farmleigh and listened to fantastic Irish businessmen from all over the world, including individuals who brought us Riverdance and many of the great global success stories over the past 20 years, including U2, and all were at one about the smart economy. There is much jargon and nonsense generated about the smart economy. It is about productivity but in Ireland's case it is about linking and matching our creative talents to emerging technology. We must maximise the speed to which we can go to market with new products and services online. It is an exciting opportunity for Ireland. People remember the bad old days when academics, writers, authors and commentators spoke about Ireland's peripheral nature relative to the European Union. Cheap airfares and the Internet mean the distance between Ireland and the rest of the world is pretty much irrelevant. If we are to maximise our position in the emerging world, enabled by technology where distance is reduced, we must protect the rights holder and the creative person who comes up with the new idea.
I pledge to the House to come up with a solution. If the industry and the players in the sector are not prepared to reach agreement, we will legislate and regulate even though I set out at the beginning of my contribution that I did not wish to do this. I addressed this matter early on and I am disappointed by the responses to date. Some people have been critical of the music organisation that conducted a bilateral arrangement with Eircom. It is positive because it is the sign of a company taking the issue seriously and agreeing to police and patrol it. The more of that, the better. I am the last person to wish to impose more legislative, bureaucratic or administrative burdens on any industry in this country but I promise to return to the House within weeks, once I am appraised of the views of the Attorney General on this matter.
I prefer not to go into detail on this case because these are sensitive issues. If I was to disclose the internal thinking on this matter, it might not help in the context of the courts system and the cases that may emerge. I thank the rightsholders, the ISPs and the people who genuinely engaged with me. It was a source of great disappointment that we could not get agreement through voluntary efforts from the industries involved.
I thank the Minister of State for his commitment to meet the Attorney General and revert to the House in the next few weeks, if possible.