Fordham Law

'Cyber-terrorists' threatened judge after file-share ruling

Fordham in Irish Times, July 18, 2011

Media Source

CAROL COULTER, Legal Affairs Editor

HIGH COURT judge Mr Justice Peter Charleton was the subject of threats on the internet after he issued an order in 2009 requiring Eircom to block the Pirate Bay website, he has told a US conference.

Pirate Bay is a controversial Swedish website that provides links to locations where copyrighted material such as music can be downloaded for free. Its activities have been the subject of numerous lawsuits.

He said that one day after his ruling, “senior officials from the Courts’ Service contacted me. Senior members of An Garda Síochána wanted to meet with me. I said yes.

“Over tea they told me that my judgment had not gone down well in places like Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, among others. These are places where there is no control at all on the internet, or so I was told.

“I was regarded as a traitor, would you mind, to freedom of expression on the internet. Threats were made that my life would be ‘wrecked by computer’. The people in question, the cyber-terrorists, were proposing to hack into my computer to get my credit card and other details, order any number of pizzas for my greedy gut and get call girls to turn up to my door and plant child pornography on my work computers.”

The first case involving illegal downloads was EMI -v- Eircom, which was settled. The deal involved the music industry reporting to Eircom instances of illegal downloading, then Eircom, using the IP numbers of the downloader, would write to the person concerned warning them that if they continued to download copyright material they would be cut off after “three strikes”.

The settlement also included an undertaking from Eircom that it would not oppose an injunction to block down the Pirate Bay website.

Mr Justice Charleton said he granted the injunction on the basis that European law demanded it, but he had not looked closely enough at the transmission of the European directive into Irish law. “That decision caused an international hullabaloo in cyberspace. It passed over my head. Viruses as well, of course. Certain precautions were taken. One precaution was to put up firewalls. These work so well that my computer is so slow that I have stopped using it. So, they did get their revenge.”

He said he also took the precaution of telling senior members of the judiciary about the threat, one of whom responded: “Dear me, Peter, are you not taking this too seriously?”

Mr Justice Charleton said it had been the Garda who took it seriously and contacted him. The judge also said he wanted to tell his colleagues so that if anything happened, such as a pornography scandal on his computer, he wanted an alibi, to which the colleague replied: “In that case, I’m happy to be your alibi.”

Mr Justice Charleton revealed the threats at a lecture earlier this year on copyright piracy and the internet at Fordham University in the US.