File-sharing battle reaches internet providers

File-sharing battle reaches internet providers
Internet service providers (ISPs) may soon be required by Swedish law to take greater responsibility for unlawful file-sharing.

An official report published on Monday – ‘Music and Film on the Internet: Threat or Opportunity? – has called for internet providers to shoulder the burden of defending against breaches of copyright.

“I propose that internet providers should be required to contribute to bringing all copyright infringement to an end,” wrote the author of the report, appeals court judge Cecilia Renfors.

Renfors rejected another idea put forward in the debate surrounding illegal file-sharing – the notion of introducing a supplementary broadband levy, the proceeds of which would be shared out among copyright holders. Such a fee, according to the report, would deny copyright holders the sole rights to their material in a controlled market.

“An internet provider should block the subscriptions of people who use the internet to share copyright-protected material on a large scale,” said Renfors.

Customers illegally downloading copyrighted material would not however risk having their connection cut off.

“While people are not permitted to download material, downloading alone is not sufficient to merit blocking a subscription,” said Renfors.

The proposal does not entail that ISPs will be called upon to hunt down file-sharers. Rather it is the copyright holders who may take action to prevent illegal file-sharing.

“If this does not result in a ban, the copyright holder can demand compensation from the internet provider,” said Renfors.

Swedish broadband provider Bredbandsbolaget was critical of the report’s conclusions.

“It is a bad proposal, ineffective and wrong in principle, and I don’t understand how it’s supposed to work in practice,” said CEO Marcus Nylén.

“We as an operator can’t act like we’re the police and check where our customers are surfing. Scaring internet users is the wrong way to tackle the issue,” he added.

The Swedish Film Institute however took a considerably more positive view of the report’s findings.

“The proposal acts as a safeguard for those of us working in the film, television, music and other cultural industries. Internet protection for Swedish creative workers is currently among the worst in Europe.

“This is a step in the right direct to ensure that we get paid for our work,” said film producer Joakim Hansson in a statement.