Justice minister offers concessions on file sharing law

The Swedish government has indicated it plans to move forward with a controversial anti-file sharing law but that the proposal will be altered in an attempt to appease some of the measure’s many critics.

The proposal, based on the European Union’s Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Directive (IPRED), would make it easier for copyright holders to track down those who download films and music over the internet.

The measure has mobilized critics who feel the law would give the entertainment industry too much power to harass citizens. The bill’s supporters feel a new law is needed to protect copyright holders from lost revenues.

According to Sveriges Radio, Sweden’s justice minister Beatrice Ask has asked her ministry, which is responsible for the law, to strike a clause which would have made the law enforceable retroactively upon coming into force on April 1st, 2009.

The language Ask wants to remove would have allowed the entertainment industry access to information about people who have been illegally downloading copyrighted material over the past few years, allowing the companies to file lawsuits against people for actions committed before the bill became law.

While the revised bill will still come into force on April 1st, film and record companies will not be allowed to know who has downloaded material prior to that date, according to Ask’s requested changes.

The change amounts to a free pass for illegal downloading of music and films until April 1st of next year, when the bill is expected to come into force.

After that date, internet service providers will be forced to give out the IP-addresses associated with computers which have downloaded copyrighted material without paying for it.

The government plans to present the bill for a vote on November 27th or December 4th, and Ask hopes the changes will be enough to assuage the doubts of some Riksdag members from within her own Moderate Party who have concerns about the bill.