Faced with difficulties in dealing with those who share movies and music using BitTorrent, in recent months Swedish police have targeted those using more exposed file-sharing systems. As stats are revealed showing just how problematic these prosecutions have become, an anti-piracy group is calling for a change in the law.
Last month it became apparent that investigations by music industry group IFPI were leading to raids against file-sharers conducted by the Swedish police. All of those arrested were allegedly identified as major file-sharers due to their use of Direct Connect.
With millions of individuals using BitTorrent and a relative handful using Direct Connect (DC), many wondered why this smaller group were considered worth of police attention. The answer was simple – gathering evidence of mass infringement to be used against those using BitTorrent is a hugely complicated task compared to Direct Connect.
“They can try to download the movie and see a list of people who have the movie. But they can not get a list of everything you download,” explained uTorrent creator Ludvig Strigeus recently. “It is difficult to attack a specific person.”
In common with DC but on a much bigger scale, BitTorrent is not just one network – every single swarm is a new and separate network and the task of monitoring them all is massive.
“There is a huge apparatus needed to keep track on all torrents. I think it’s too hard to manage to do it and then get [the evidence] to hold in the District Court,” adds Strigeus.
Not to say that Sweden and its fledgling anti-piracy taskforce haven’t been busy, though. They just haven’t been getting that many results.
According to a report, in the last 18 months they have reported between 70 and 80 file-sharers to the police. Of those, just 35 to 40 cases were considered worth pursuing. Around 10 of those individuals have been arrested thus far, only 3 have admitted to offenses and agreed to pay fines and there are just 15 cases still under investigated. Needless to say, this is not considered good progress for the time and money invested. Additionally, none of them were BitTorrent users.
While investigators insist that they are looking into new ways of tracking and logging evidence against BitTorrent infringers, anti-piracy group Antipiratbyran (APB) are hoping that the law will help their battle.
APB lawyer Henrik Pontén says the difficulties posed by BitTorrent “…shows the need for other types of intervention from the legislators, if they are serious about copyright law to work on the Internet.”
Pontén is hoping that changes to legislation will allow collecting societies and outfits like the IFPI to start sending copyright infringement warnings directly to those they suspect are sharing files illegally.
“The simplest option is that the victims of copyright crimes are able to send warning letters,” says Pontén.
Currently this is a problem in Sweden, since it is very difficult to obtain the real identity of someone behind an IP address without the assistance of the police. Because of this, Pontén hopes that his group can cooperate with ISPs so that they can forward infringement warnings to file-sharers on their behalf.
“We will not get [the file-sharer's] identity, we just want the warning message to arrive at the correct address. An independent body should be able to send information to the person breaking the law, possibly a government body or a third party organization,” he concludes.
Although this would be a first step, with no sanctions should the warnings be ignored it’s difficult to see how this system would have ‘teeth’. But it’s probably one step at a time for APB – teeth will be bared at a later stage.