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Hanafin denies internet piracy law rumours

Enterprise Minister Mary Hanafin has scotched rumours she was poised to rush through new laws to cut off internet users who illegally download music.

Speculation she was set to sign off on a controversial anti-piracy crackdown in the dying days of the Government prompted an intervention by a former Cabinet colleague.

Branding the claims "seriously disturbing", former communications minister Eamon Ryan warned Ms Hanafin any such move would threaten the country's economic recovery.

Openly demanding her not to sign off on legislation, Mr Ryan said it looked like the outgoing government was going to force through the changes in the final moments of power.

But Ms Hanafin, who is also facing a battle to retain her Dail seat, insisted there was "absolutely no truth" that she was about to rubber-stamp changes to copyright laws.

She said talks were taking place between her department, the Attorney General and the Department of Communications about Ireland's compliance with EU copyright regulations.

But she added it would be up to the new government to make any decisions on the contentious matter.

"It would be normal practice within the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation to consult all the relevant stakeholders in advance of legislation such as this being enacted," she said.

"I would expect that this consultation will take place when the department and the new minister have a clearer view of the best way forward on this issue."

Government officials have been examining Irish copyright laws since one of the state's largest internet providers scored a landmark victory against record labels over illegal music downloads last October.

Four powerful industry firms - Warner Music, Universal Music, Sony BMG and EMI Records - pushed for a 'three strikes and you're out' rule to stop massive piracy by broadband provider UPC's customers.

But the High Court ruled that laws to identify and cut-off internet users illegally copying music files were not enforceable in Ireland.

Mr Ryan said Ireland's greatest potential for economic growth was in the digital industry, and that an overly legalistic approach to internet freedom and copyright could compromise that opportunity .

"This is sensitive policy that we need to get right," he said.

"It has to be in tune with Europe and it cannot hurt our growing digital industry."

PA Media