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Swedish parliament passes copyright bill

Swedish parliament passes copyright bill

Published: 25 Feb 2009 16:18 GMT+01:00
Updated: 25 Feb 2009 16:18 GMT+01:00

As expected, the Riksdag passed a controversial new measure on Wednesday designed to make it easier to investigate suspected cases of illegal file sharing.

The vote came following a spirited debate between Sweden’s Minister of Justice, Beatrice Ask, and detractors of the file sharing bill, which is based on the European Union's Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Directive (IPRED).

The government contends that the law is necessary to protect the rights of filmmakers, authors, and artists by allowing them to earn a living from their creations.

But opponents from the Left and Green Parties claim the measure is a threat to democracy and personal integrity because it gives companies and copyright holders too much power to investigate and demand compensation from individuals for alleged copyright infringement.

“To stop file sharing a police state is required where all internet traffic is under surveillance. Is it worth it?” asked the Green Party’s Lage Rahm, according to the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper

“We think copyright is important, but the problem is that it’s not right to criminalize people for what they do for private use.”

Rahm also voiced his concern that the new law could give rise to “blackmail situations” in which individuals feel forced to pay fines despite not breaking the law just to avoid having to be taken to court.

Ask, however, dismissed the Green Party critics, accusing them of rhetorical posturing.

“It’s easy to say that you are in favour of copyright protection, but then not following up with any proposals whatsoever,” she said, adding that the law addresses both file sharing and piracy.

“Those who create films and music within the law will have a better chance to take action against copyright violations,” she said

The Social Democrats supported the bill, but voiced a number of concerns about potential privacy violations.

The party suggested adding a provision for a privacy ombudsman to protect people who feel they’ve been unduly investigated, but the amendment was rejected by the government.

The Social Democrats also fear that the fast pace of development of file sharing technology will render the law obsolete by the time it comes into force on April 1st.

As an alternative, the party would like to see the launching of a copyright commission charged with conducting a wider examination of the file sharing phenomenon.

“The upcoming generation has another view of copyright protection. The legislation must be viewed as legitimate,” said Social Democratic Riksdag member Eva-Lena Jansson.

While the Left Party is opposed to the measure, the party’s Kent Persson acknowledged the government had sufficient support in the Riksdag to pass the measure.

Assuming the bill would pass, therefore, the Left Party, which believes file sharing for private use should remain legal, reluctantly supported the Social Democrats’ suggestion for a copyright commission.

In her defence of the bill, the justice minister stressed that the file sharing measure upheld the rule of law by requiring that a court decide on which information could be released for file sharing investigations.

In addition, the measure requires evidence that a particular IP-address was being used for file sharing before an investigation takes place.

The court would also make a determination regarding the relative severity of the offence.

“That means that information will primarily be released when it’s a matter of making material accessible on the internet, not when someone downloads an individual work, that is to say, copying,” said Ask.

“It’s not about 14-year-olds who want to listen to their favourite star from Idol, but rather those who make the material accessible. Anyone who has read the bill knows that.”

David Landes (david.landes@thelocal.se)

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