Court Orders ISPs To Disconnect File-Sharers

A group of music labels currently taking action against The Pirate Bay in Finland have pulled off something anti-piracy groups in other countries have been dreaming of. Following file-sharing complaints filed earlier this year, a court has now issued orders for the ISPs of three subscribers to disconnect them from the Internet.

In May, news broke that a group of record labels had initiated steps to have The Pirate Bay censored in Finland. The Copyright Information and Anti-Piracy Centre (CIAPC) and the local branch of the IFPI announced that they had filed a lawsuit at the District Court in Helsinki.

The legal action targeted Elisa, one of the largest ISPs in Finland, demanding that the Internet provider stops providing subscriber access to The Pirate Bay.

While the result in that case is yet to be decided, CIAPC have just pulled off quite a victory in their battle against illicit file-sharing.

During the course of their online anti-piracy monitoring, CIAPC discovered five Internet connections which were making available thousands of music tracks on file-sharing networks. According to the group, in all cases the file-sharer was either an actual Internet subscriber or a family member of a subscriber.

CIAPC took the information to court looking for an order to prevent the individuals continuing with their activities. Now, under Section 60c of Finland’s Copyright Act, a court has granted CIAPC injunctions in three of the cases.

What this means is without the sending of a so-called “first strike” letter, the respective ISPs of the subscribers in question are now required to completely disconnect their infringing customers from the Internet.

“This has not happened in Finland before nor did we expect it to happen,” says Joonas Mäkinen of the Pirate Party of Finland.

Mäkinen told TorrentFreak this morning that legal sanctions available to rightsholders should always be proportionate and that these disconnections overstep the mark.

“This is indeed a worrisome addition to the anti-piracy arsenal. It seems that lately politicians and legal procedures alike have been more focused on how civil rights can be restricted rather than how they can be protected. There shouldn’t even exist anything in the legislation that allows such a limitation to people’s right to communicate,” says Mäkinen.

“With no own means of using their everyday social interactions, working or handling their bills and bank account online, the damages to the accused are unreasonable.”

Furthermore, Mäkinen – who is Vice Chairman of Pirate Party of Finland’s youth organisation, Piraattinuoret – raises the question about the neutrality of Internet service providers in respect of this court-ordered intervention.

“It shouldn’t be surprising that we expect all Internet communications to be governed as responsibly as one’s right to send a letter using postal services. ISPs should not be forced to take back anyone’s right to send electronic messages privately, be it love letters or torrent traffic.

“And if there is evidence of misuse, it is up to the police to handle all individual cases, not copyright organisations demanding a total ban on the communication services.”

Large-scale file-sharers in Finland are indeed usually referred to the police, sometimes with severe consequences. Earlier this year two individuals received huge fines and suspended jail sentences for their part in a file-sharing hub. Whether or not they would have preferred to have their Internet connections taken away instead is a question for them.

While the individuals in all of these cases were caught using a sharing system known as Direct Connect where it is easy to get caught sharing many files at once, CIAPC are warning users of The Pirate Bay that they’re not safe either.

“Many might believe that by using the Pirate Bay they can not get caught, when in fact the result can be they have to pay several hundred euros in compensation,” says CIAPC Managing Director Antti Kotilainen.

“Legal services being offered now are so good that no one should have to download music from an illegal source,” Kotilainen adds, a point contested by Pirate Party of Finland.

“The legal options given to music consumers are definitely not ‘good enough’ yet to compare with Internet filesharing,” says Mäkinen, who goes on to bemoan ongoing global music rights battles, lack of better-than-mp3 quality music on streaming services, DRM and counter-intuitive payment systems.

Whether these injunctions will be replicated again against other file-sharers remains to be seen, but in the meantime Finland must sit and wait to discover if ISP Elisa is ordered to terminate access to The Pirate Bay.

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