Swedish Law Instantly Shuts Down Piracy Site

Published June 1, 2009

A new anti-piracy law went into effect in Sweden in April, allowing copyright holders to demand convicted offenders’ browsing information from Internet Service Providers if a court finds there’s evidence of illegal activity.

Sweden’s version of the Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Directive (IPRED) passed the Riksdag overwhelmingly on February 25. IPRED is an anti-piracy measure proposed by members of the European Parliament in 2004 that has not yet been implemented continent-wide.

Internet traffic in Sweden decreased by 30 percent after a single day of enforcement of the new law, according to traffic research Web site Netnod.

The law allows musicians, TV producers, and other copyright holders to access IP addresses of users who violate their intellectual property rights.

Punishing Pirate Bay
Over the past decade, Sweden has been the major spawning ground for peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing networks such as Kazaa and The Pirate Bay. The rise of “bit torrent” technology has allowed computer users to visit sites such as The Pirate Bay, search for music, movies, games, and software, and download them to their own computers quickly and reliably from other users.

A Swedish court found the four founders of The Pirate Bay guilty of copyright infringement and handed down a sentence of a year in jail and a $3.7 million fine. (See story on page 1.)

Beefing Up U.S. Laws
James Andrew Lewis of the Center for Strategic and International Studies finds a “disconnect between American and European privacy protections” and calls for tougher piracy laws in the United States.

“The Swedish requirements build in a safeguard against abuse that the U.S. system lacks,” Lewis said. “There is no involvement by [American] courts in [anti-piracy] decisions, which means you have law firms acting as enforcement agents.”

Concerns about User Privacy
The Riksdag was not unanimous in its support of IPRED, with the Left and Green Parties voting against it.

“[The Swedish law] requires a court order [to reveal IP information on convicted pirates],” said Milton Mueller, a member of the Internet Governance Project and professor at Syracuse University. “But now the Swedish police are authorized to pursue smaller [copyright] violations. That might encourage more extensive and possibly unwarranted police surveillance of Internet use.”

Coming to America?
Sweden’s enforcement of IPRED may lead to more stringent policies in the rest of the European Union and the United States, Lewis says.

“I think we will see more actions like this as governments and laws adjust to the digital network environment,” Lewis said. “IP protection will increase innovation when it is constructed correctly.”

Nicholas Katers ([email protected]) writes from Wisconsin.