Intellectual Property

A Pirate's Meme for Me

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pirate

Sweden's new anti-piracy law went into effect yesterday and the country experienced a significant drop in Internet traffic as a result. The popular BitTorrent file-sharing site The Pirate Bay is based out of Sweden as is the political Pirate Party. Christian Engstrom, vice-chairman of the Pirate Party, said the drop was a direct—if only temporary—result of the law.

Last month, I argued that Internet Service Providers (ISP) are better allies for net neutrality proponents than the European Union. Why? Because it's better to have unregulated individuals and businesses working out the kinks of a Brave New World themselves, sans government interference. Choice quotes from the BBC piece reveal why that is:

Sweden's new policy—the Local IPRED law—allows copyright holders to force Internet service providers (ISP) to reveal details of users sharing files….

The new law, which is based on the European Union's Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Directive (IPRED), allows copyright holders to obtain a court order forcing ISPs to provide the IP addresses identifying which computers have been sharing copyrighted material.

And later in the article, Kjell Bohlund, chair of the Swedish Publishers' Association, makes a very forceful point:

"Now we can go get the courts to force ISPs to disclose the user information of an IP address.

To be fair, Bohlund said the new law "is just for the big fish" (although, one wishes he had meant the elusive Red Gummy Fish). But the frequent use of "force" should be a flashing screensaver for everyone interested in an open and accessible internet.

Engstrom called the new law a "disaster," and argued that it gives "private corporations the legal right to go after our civilians. That's not how Western democracies work." As the vice-pirate-chairman astutely notes, "cracking down on illegal file-sharing was not a long term solution." Presumably, because:

…the risks to illegal file-sharers were still quite low.

"We estimate there are two million file-sharing [computers] in Sweden, so even if they prosecuted a 1000 people to make an example of them, for an individual user it is still a very small risk."

So avatars are performing a cost-benefit analysis of pirating and finding new ways to skirt around regulations? It doesn't look good for copyright holders. And thus far, it seems the only (legal) solution has been force: the law forces ISPs to force their customers to stop "using the force." If legislative "landlubbers" continue on this course, it might be time to consider mutiny.