BitTorrent Bonanza: Monitoring File-Sharers Forbidden in Norway

From today, file-sharers in Norway can download pretty much whatever they like without facing any consequences. Pirates were effectively given the green light after the only law firm in the country permitted to monitor file-sharing networks lost its license and were denied a new one.

For more than half a decade the Simonsen law firm has been obtaining licenses from Norway’s data protection office which enabled the company to monitor file-sharers and collect their IP addresses.

There have been difficult periods though, such as in 2009 when the company’s license expired in the midst of a debate over what licensees can and cannot do. Now, three years later, Simonsen face another crisis.

Simonsen, which is home to famous pirate-chaser Espen Tøndel, became unlicensed in March this year after the Privacy Appeals Board rejected the law firm’s appeal against the Data Inspectorate’s decision not to issue a new license on data protection grounds. The effects of that rejection are now being felt.

“As of today no hunting of file-sharers is allowed in Norway,” said Cecilie Rønnevik, senior advisor to the Norwegian Data Inspectorate.

Simonsen, who work on behalf of clients such as the MPAA, says the decision is a blow to rightsholders.

“When no one is authorized to process personal data in order to stop copyright infringement, it weakens licensees’ ability to pursue violations happening online, and thus their ability to protect their interests. We hope and believe that this problem will soon be solved,” the company told TU.NO in an email.

There is a suggestion that one way around the problem would be to form an anti-piracy group to represent rightsholders, such as those that exists across the border in Sweden.

“We have been asked if we could accept an organization on the licensee side, a bit like Antipiratbyrån in Sweden,” said Cecilie Rønnevik from the Data Inspectorate. “We will consider it if we get an application for a license.”

No application has yet been received, so until one is – and a license is granted – Norwegian file-sharers can download whatever they like without any fear of repercussions. Whether that green light will have any effect on their habits remains to be seen.

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