I mentioned to some non-Swedes today at work that the IPRED Law (Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Directive) will come into effect tomorrow. They were all surprised that such a law had been passed in Sweden. It was also discussed in worried tones around the table at our regular Tuesday lunch for doctoral students in my home department. The IPRED law is
"a file sharing law, which is based on the European Union's Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Directive (IPRED), will allow courts to order internet operators to hand over details that identify suspected illegal file-sharers.
Copyright holders would then be free to contact the file sharer in question and demand that they suspend their activities or risk prosecution."
As the English language Swedish news site The Local goes on to report, "Almost half of Swedes, 48 percent of the 1,000 interviewed, consider the law to be wrong while only 32 percent are in favour, a new poll from Sifo shows."
I am convinced that the IPRED law will have little effect on those who share files and have a reasonable degree of knowledge about the technology.
In Finland, where IPRED 1 has already been implemented a recent study has shown that it has not effected P2P file sharing practices:
The National Research Institute of Legal Policy of Finland (Optula) has just come out with the results of its large survey charting various illegal or forbidden activities among the Finnish 9th grade (15 year old) schoolchildren. This is already the sixth survey of its kind but interestingly the researchers included this year also unauthorized downloading among the 'forbidden' activities charted. The results show that net piracy is highly popular in this age group, topping the chart of illegal or forbidden activities. 29% of the study target group practiced unauthorized downloading daily, 69% had done it at least once during the previous year, and 74% had done it at least once in their lifetime. Two out of three persons reported having at least 100 illegally downloaded files on their computers. Two thirds of the downloaded content was music while movies was the next most popular content type.
These objectively credible results contrast sharply the propaganda material previously distributed by the Finnish copyright lobby organization Lyhty. Citing cherry picked details from its annual Tekijänoikeusbarometri (Copyright Barometer) study - the details and result data of which have never been published for scientific scrutiny - Lyhty has claimed that the new Finnish copyright law - which is an implementation of the IPRED1 sanction dircetive - has been effective in reducing net piracy in Finland. This claim has been further distributed internationally by IFPI lobbyists. However, Optula's fresh study shows that this claim is not true at all, at least among the younger generation. Net piracy is highly popular among the young Finns, and there are no signs of the new stricter copyright law managing to reduce it.
The Pirate Bay (several organizers of which are awaiting a judgment on April 17th regarding "promoting other people's infringements of copyright laws") have released IPREDator:
IPREDator is a network service that makes people online more anonymous using a VPN. It costs about 5 EUR a month and we store no traffic data. Our service is right now in a beta stage. we hope it will be released for the public before 1st of April. Sign up now to start using it as soon as we're stable. The network is under our control. not theirs. The pirate bay likes and knows real kopimism. and waffles. kopimi!
The Local (once again) explains the service further; "This type of service hinders outsiders from finding the identity of an individual behind an IP address, while helping Internet users effectively side-step laws which may prove inconvenient or unpalatable in their home country." Those users of P2P technology who do not deepen their involvement with the file sharing community, by adopting such cloaking technology as IPREDator will perhaps come to the attention to those enforcing the IPRED law.
The main issue with the effects of the IPRED law is the effect, as the Green Party image suggests (Ipren is a brand of aspirin in Sweden), it will have on the digital economy and culture of Sweden. In June 2008 the Swedish parliament passed the so-called FRA Law, "legislative package that authorizes the state to warrantlessly wiretap all telephone and Internet traffic that crosses Sweden's borders." The FRA Law combined with the IPRED Law does not contribute to the image of Sweden as a place were communication is private and secure. Any company or government doing business in Sweden will have the Swedish government as a third party in communication over digital (including mobile) networks. This seems like a nightmare scenario to me.
The effect of making the entire communication network of Sweden a surveilled network is of course large organizations taking their business elsewhere. The Russian telecommunication organization Rostelekom has said it will be now redirecting from Sweden.
Sharing all communication with government monitors is a strange outcome of anti-file sharing laws.