Lines drawn in battle over file sharing bill

Debate in Sweden is growing ever hotter over a proposed law that will make it easier for law enforcement to track down those suspected of illegally downloading copyrighted material from the internet.

On Thursday, several high profile members of the Swedish entertainment industry came out in support of the new measure, while public opposition to the law, based on the European Union’s Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Directive (IPRED), continued to mount.

The proposal would make it possible for copyright holders to get a court order requesting the release of information about certain IP addresses if there is probable cause that someone has broken copyright laws.

The copyright holders could then directly contact those suspected of illegal file sharing and request that they stop. If the downloading continues, then information gleaned from internet service providers could be used as the basis for lawsuits demanding compensation for copyright violations.

Political discussions are also ongoing, and neither enterprise minister Maud Olofsson nor justice minister Beatrice Ask, who is formally responsible for implementing the measure, can say exactly when the proposal will move forward.

According to the original timetable, the measure is to be introduced sometime in November and to take effect on April 1st, 2009, but the governing parties have yet to reach an agreement on the bill’s final wording.

“We’re working on improvements, but we don’t do that in public,” said Jan Andersson, a Riksdag member from the Centre Party, to the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper.

Andersson sits in the Riksdag’s committee of industry and trade, which is preparing the legislation.

In an article in Dagens Nyheter (DN) signed by a long list of celebrities, including musician Per Gessle, actor Mikael Persbrandt, and film director Colin Nutley, the group states that Sweden’s music industry has lost around 60 percent of its revenues since the start of the decade.

“It’s that group of notorious uploaders of copyrighted material which the new legislation is designed to stop,” they write.

“Unfortunately, that’s not true,” responded Moderate Party parliamentarian Karl Sigfrid, who is trying to change the proposal which was recently sent to the Council on Legislation (Lagrådet).

“The proposal isn’t aimed at the large-scale file sharers, but at everyone,” he said.

Pirate Party vice-chair Christian Engström started a Facebook group opposed to the measure which now has more than 22,000 members.

“We have examples from other countries where this has amounted to the legalization of wide-spread blackmail,” he told SvD.

“Record companies get the name of someone suspected of file sharing and send out a letter demanding 20,000 kronor ($2,500) or some other made up sum with the threat that if you don’t pay, we’ll be taking you to court.”

The youth organizations of all the centre-right political parties are highly critical of the law.

“Throw IPRED in the waste bin,” writes the head of the Centre Party’s youth organization (CUF), Magnus Andersson, on his blog.

He continues, saying that “this is a shitty law” which hunts down file sharers and he criticizes Swedish celebrities for writing a very “low level” argument in their DN article.

The centre-right youth organizations have decided to act in concert in hopes that the government will take their concerns into consideration.

“The idea is that we can write something up together and make things clear to our mother parties. We’re filing an article as we speak,” said Frida Johansson-Metso, head of the Liberal Party’s youth organization, LUF, to SvD.