Universities clamp down on internet piracy

Swedish universities have begun denying students suspected of illegal file sharing access to school computer networks, prompting criticism from both student groups and file sharing advocates.

The internet access bans have come following complaints from American film companies that the university’s networks are being used to illegally download copyrighted material.

“We cut people off when we get a second notice,” said Linköping University IT-security specialist Johannes Haasmund to Sveriges Radio (SR).

But Haasmund admitted that the university doesn’t verify whether or not the file sharing actually involves copyrighted material, but instead takes actions based only on the complaints it receives.

According to Sweden’s new anti-piracy law, a film company wishing to block a user suspected of illegal file sharing via a commercial internet service provider (ISP) must submit the request to judicial review.

In contrast, universities connected to the Sunet university computer network can simply cut off access without any formal review.

Thorbjörn Wiktorin, who works with IT-security at Uppsala University, said his school takes swift action because it is a public institution, not a commercial venture.

He estimates about 100 Uppsala University students have had their internet access revoked since October, but added that improved behaviour can lead to a restoration of network access privileges.

But the universities’ actions have sparked outrage from Moa Neuman, head of Sweden’s association of student unions, Sveriges förenade studentkårer (SFS) who is concerned about the consequences a loss of internet access might have as the end of the academic year approaches.

“It can have consequences for students and their ability to complete their studies if they don’t have internet access, because that’s really important for a lot of students right now,” she told SR.

“It can also have consequences for how these students’ views about a just society.”

In reaction to the university’s decision to cut off internet access for students suspected of internet piracy, SFS has joined forces with the Pirate Party’s youth wing, Young Pirates, to demand that universities stop the practice.

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Sweden now owns Pirate Bay domain names

The Swedish state became the unlikely new owner of two domain names used by The Pirate Bay after a court ruling on Tuesday.

Sweden now owns Pirate Bay domain names
The Swedish state now owns two Pirate Bay domain names. Photo: Vilhelm Stokstad/TT

In its ruling the Stockholm district court awarded Sweden the domain names and

The case marked the first time a Swedish prosecutor had asked for a web address to be wiped off the face of the internet, Dagens Nyheter reports

“A domain name assists a website. If the site is used for criminal purposes the domain name is a criminal instrument,” prosecutor Fredrik Ingblad told the Swedish daily earlier this year. 

Sweden’s Internet Infrastructure Foundation, which controls the Swedish top level domain .se, opposed the prosecutor’s move to prohibit any future use of the two Pirate Bay addresses.

The court agreed that the foundation had not done anything wrong and conceded that it could not force the group to block certain domain names, Dagens Nyheter reports. But by awarding the addresses to the Swedish state the court effectively ensured that they will not be sold on to another owner. 

The file-sharing service was temporarily knocked off line in December after police seized servers hosted at a data centre in a nuclear-proof bunker deep in a mountain outside Stockholm.

But seven weeks later the resilient file-sharing behemoth was back on its feet and Tuesday’s ruling is unlikely to knock it off balance for long, as the court cannot prevent The Pirate Bay from continuing to run sites on other domains.

The Pirate Bay, which grew into an international phenomenon after it was founded in Sweden in 2003, allows users to dodge copyright fees and share music, film and other files using bit torrent technology, or peer-to-peer links offered on the site – resulting in huge losses for music and movie makers.

In 2009 four Swedes connected with The Pirate Bay were found guilty of being accessories to copyright infringement by a Swedish court. 

They were each give one-year jail terms and ordered to pay 30 million kronor ($3.6 million) in compensation.