Eircom today announced that they would start monitoring their customers’ internet traffic in order to detect and report illegal file sharing activity. Repeated accusations of file sharing will see the offending accounts being cancelled. There are benefits and disadvantages to Eircom.

The benefits are that this action will bring illegal filesharing to an end. The people using illegal filesharing software will see the error of their ways and everyone will henceforth pay the going price for downloading music.

Oh, wait. NO THEY WON’T.

The downloaders will simply go somewhere else, using more secure software, less easily detected by the IRMA snoops.

The disadvantages are that Eircom will lose customers. Lots and lots of customers. Filesharers will surely go. One might be tempted to say good riddance, except for the fact that they are all paying monthly subscriptions that pay the wages of Eircom employees. Not only that, but innocent customers will also leave, when they start getting nastygrams from Eircom accusing them of something they didn’t do. Paying customers will feel the brunt of their children’s misbehaviour, hacker attacks where their modems are not adequately secured and false-positives from the IRMA sniffing software itself. Oh boy. Talk radio is going to have a field day. The bad press will therefore lead to even more customers refusing to renew their subscriptions.

This is a bad call by Eircom, and I’m surprised they haven’t gone all the way to the European Court with this. They have a legitimate safe-harbour defense (should motorway owners be responsible for the actions of motorists on their roads?), and yet they caved in to a special interest at the first hurdle.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present you Eircom: the great corporate suicide story of the decade.

Update: Dick Doyle from IRMA has said that they could potentially provide Eircom with “thousands of IP addresses”. Let’s substitute the words “IP addresses” with “permanently lost customers“. Eircom must be ecstatic about that wonderful prognosis.