The settlement between the Irish Recorded Music Assocation (Irma) and Eircom has gotten a lot of attention. But most of it has been about the disconnection of copyright abusers and the three-strikes approach.
A far more serious issue for civil liberties was confirmed in a legal letter sent out to all of the country's ISPs by Irma this week.
It states: "Eircom has agreed that it will not oppose any application our client may make seeking the blocking of access from their network to the Pirate Bay or similar websites".
In other words, Irma is drawing up a list of websites it doesn't like and Eircom will block them to all of its customers. And Irma is demanding that other ISPs do likewise, on pain of being sued.
Eircom says that it will only block a website if a court order requests it to. But it has undertaken not to oppose any application to a court, meaning the order is automatically granted. It's a technical way of getting out of taking responsibility for it.
"We're not offering to block Pirate Bay," a spokesman for Eircom told me on Tuesday. "But if Irma goes and gets a court order seeking the blocking go Pirate Bay, we will comply with the court order. And we have agreed not to oppose that application in court."
In other words, it's happy hunting time for the big music labels. Bear in mind that Eircom over two-thrids of the residential broadband market in Ireland. That's a lot of internet censorship.
And the other ISPs? BT, UPC, Vodafone, 3? They're taking counsel at the moment and conferring among themselves. They're not small enough to be easily bullied by the music industry. But they may also take the view that it's less hassle just to comply with the scheme Eircom has signed up to. This will especially be so if people do not kick up a stink. If the public appears not to care about this, as I think is likely to be the case, it will be more tempting to save money on the legal costs involved.
This is a very serious development for freedom of speech and internet access in this country, whether the public care or not.
In a nutshell, if this sails through, other industries will line up to have their own nemesis websites blocked. For example, the publishing industry has long since had it in for Google's Book Search project. It alleges massive copyright infringement. What's to stop Penguin, Harper Collins and the rest from demanding that Irish ISPs stop allowing access to that site? Even Wikipedia could come under threat.
If this continues, Ireland will have proven itself to be a soft touch for censorship.
The question is: will anybody care?
EDIT: On the above point relating to how Irma's application gets through the courts, Eircom has asked me to point out that Irma still needs some standard of proof to show the court. This is true, but Irma has a couple of legislative provisions (mostly section 40(4) of the Copyright Act) to argue in court. Our judicial system is an adversarial one: it depends on someone opposing the action for a judge to come to a conclusion. If the opposing party enters no opposition, a basic standard of proof will be enough to satisfy the court.