Swedish ISP seeks EU file sharing ruling

Swedish broadband operator Comhem wants a district court to seek the advice of the EU Court of Justice over an anti-file sharing law (Ipred) case, after the Supreme Court indicated that a test case was destined for Luxembourg.

The case dates to back to a report from the Swedish arm of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) in December 2009 calling on Comhem to reveal the identity of a “quite normal” file sharer.

Comhem refused, arguing that existing EU legislation data storage legislation only obliges ISPs to divulge user information to the law enforcement agencies and not to private actors.

Comhem has now cited a June ruling by the Swedish Supreme Court (Högsta Domstolen – HD) concerning a case between five audiobook publishers and the Swedish ISP ePhone, arguing that its case its identical.

The court’s request for the parties involved to submit their view on whether it is necessary to send the matter for a preliminary ruling to the European Court, was interpreted by experts to mean that the ePhone case was headed for the EU.

This is a process that can take years and the Ifpi has now argued that Comhem is just seeking to delay the legal process.

“We regret Comhem’s position. We consider the legal situation to be so clear that it is unnecessary to ask the EU-Court for advice,” Ifpi’s CEO Lars Gustafsson told the TT news agency.

The Ipred law, implemented in Sweden on April 1st 2009, gave copyright holders the right to force internet service providers to reveal details of users sharing files, paving the way for legal action that could see downloaders pay hefty damages and fines.

After an initial drop in internet traffic attributed to a decline in file sharing, the practice soon bounced back and by December 2009 had returned to record levels in with up to 8 percent of the Swedish population reported to be actively partaking.

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Wikimedia ‘breaks copyright’ with Swedish statue photos

Sweden’s supreme court ruled on Monday that the non-profit internet giant Wikimedia breaches Sweden’s copyright laws by publishing photos of public artworks.

Wikimedia 'breaks copyright' with Swedish statue photos
Gothenburg's iconic Poseidon statue by Carl Milles. Photo: Leif R Jansson/TT

The controversial judgement is a victory for the Visual Copyright Society in Sweden (Bildupphovsrätt i Sverige – BUS), which sued Wikimedia at Stockholm District Court for publishing photos of Swedish public sculptures and other public artworks without first getting permission from the artists. 

“We are naturally very disappointed,” Wikimedia's Swedish operations manager Anna Troberg told The Local after the supreme court gave its guidance to the district court. 

“We view this as an anachronistic and restrictive interpretation of copyright laws. It also runs counter to recommendations from the European Court of Human Rights.”

Wikimedia is the group behind the free online encyclopaedia Wikipedia. It has created a vast online knowledge repository by allowing members of the public to group-edit entries and upload pictures to its pages for educational purposes. 

In its judgement the supreme court affirmed that Swedish copyright law does permit members of the public to take pictures of public artworks. But, the court said, “it is different when it’s a database where artworks are made available to the public to an unlimited extent without copyright-holders receiving any remuneration.”

“A database of this kind can be deemed to have a commercial value that is not inconsiderable,” the supreme court said in a statement.  

“The court rules that the copyright-holders are entitled to this value. It is not relevant whether or not Wikimedia has a commercial aim.” 

Wikimedia’s Anna Troberg said the group would now consult its lawyer and its parent foundation in the United States before deciding what action to take. 

“Our priority now will be to re-shape the debate, because clearly this is an outdated judgement. It is in no way in tune with the times that somebody should face legal repercussions for taking photos of public artworks that we have all paid for with our taxes.”