The Swedish government has proposed changes to the country’s copyright law which would make it illegal to download, as well as distribute, music and films on the internet without the copyright owner’s permission.
But justice minister Thomas Bodström said on Thursday that the tightened law was not intended to be used against individuals downloading material for their own private use.
“With this new law we want to fight against those who earn serious money by spreading copyright-protected material,” he said.
“But the idea isn’t that the police will charge into homes hunting teenagers who are sitting there downloading.”
The government’s 600-page proposal comes in the middle of a controversy over the actions of Sweden’s anti-piracy organisation, Antipiratbyrån (APB), which last week raided an internet supplier, Bahnhof, and confiscated machines holding 450,000 sound files, 5,500 games and 1,800 films.
Thousands of people have now reported APB, which is an interest group for the film and computer games industries, to the Swedish Data Inspection Board. Among them are internet entrepreneur Jonas Birgersson and the founder of mp3 company Jens of Sweden, Jens Nylander, who say that the organisation has broken personal data laws by checking and registering “IP addresses”, unique identifiers for every computer on the internet, before reporting downloaders to the police.
The Data Inspection Board says it will launch an investigation after Easter.
“I’ll put the coffee on,” said APB lawyer Henrik Pontén. “They’re welcome. It’s natural that they want to see what we’re doing after the debate around this.”
Pontén, who has been the subject of a hate campaign by disgruntled downloaders, may need to make extra coffee: Sweden’s National Post and Telecom Agency has also said that it will look into whether APB has broken laws governing electronic communication.
Dagens Nyheter met three self-confessed downloaders who attempted to explain why “copyright is a meaningless word”.
“If the copyright owner doesn’t get paid, that’s not my problem,” said Ibi Botani.
“Music came before copyright. If I take milk from you, you don’t have any milk left. But if I download a film, you still have the film. You haven’t lost anything.”
His friend Sara Andersson agreed.
“Technology has run away from the rules. The law has become irrelevant,” she said.
Despite such opposition, justice minister Thomas Bodström said he believes the new law will be effective.
“You shouldn’t underestimate people’s attitude towards the law. The majority don’t want to be criminals. Now we’ve sorted out the lack of clarity in the law, so ordinary people know what the deal is.”
Bodström added that he hoped the industry would react by making it possible to download a song for ten kronor.
“Then you won’t have to buy an expensive album in the record shop,” he said.