Denmark Kills File-Sharing Warnings, Launches Legal Services Initiative

After seriously considering sending out "3 strikes" warning letters to file-sharers, today Denmark will officially announce the abandoning of the idea. Instead, the government and rightsholders will focus on the 'Pirate Package' initiative which will boost the development of legal services. In addition to many positive elements, the initiative also includes a mechanism to smooth the way towards easier website blocking.

After years of deliberations, today Denmark’s government will officially announce its new strategy for dealing with the issue of unauthorized file-sharing online.

Although pushed for heavily by rightsholders, the so-called “letter model” in which errant internet subscribers are sent a series of warnings informing them that their habits are illegal, is now officially off the table.

According to a Ministry of Culture document seen by TorrentFreak, the government will today announce its “Pirate Package”, an anti-piracy initiative that moves the emphasis away from punishing end users and towards the development and creation of better legal offerings. It consists of a number of components.

The first is the ‘Innovation Forum’ which will provide a platform for “dialog and innovation” for those looking to create and develop digital business models in various creative fields.

“The ambition is that the innovation forum will help to create a foundation for future collaboration across industries and backgrounds with the common goal to ensure that consumers have equal and easy access to as much creative content as possible,” the government writes.

The common theme raised in a number of the initiative’s components is the education of consumers. The Ministry of Culture says it will team up with the telecoms industry, rightsholders and the Consumer Council to launch a joint awareness project later this year to inform consumers which services are legal and which are not.

Additionally, the Ministry believes that one of the problems with the consumption of infringing music and movies is that the public does not understand its “significance and consequences.” It appears that rightsholders will step in to educate the masses on this issue.

“Rightsholders have stated that they will take the initiative to create an information task force that will pro-actively target and communicate with Internet users on relevant sites and forums,” the Ministry writes.

The rightsholders will reportedly seek to change Internet users’ attitudes by various methods, including contacting and initiating dialog with individuals on file-sharing sites “who upload and use illegal material.”

Another effort in the education of consumers will relate to securing existing open WiFi networks and having manufacturers build automatic technical solutions into hardware of the future.

On the ISPs end, outgoing customer bills will include notices warning users to secure their connections and stressing the importance of choosing legal media consumption offers over pirate networks.

The Ministry document also notes that there will be increased effort to remove infringing material from the Internet but perhaps a more controversial element of the Pirate Package relates to the ISP-level blocking of websites such as The Pirate Bay. The initiative hopes to pave the way for a smoother blocking process.

According to the Ministry, Denmark’s ISPs and rightsholders have reached an agreement on censoring sites which will be formalized into a written Code of Conduct.

In practice what this means is that if rightsholders want a site blocked they will only have to take legal action against a single ISP. Once a court decides the outcome (to block or not to block) that ISP agrees to be bound by “the final decision of the court.” Whether this means they agree not to launch an appeal as many ISPs have done in the past remains unclear.

“This is an automated process where the rights holders need only contact one organization / one telephone company, which will then make sure to communicate this decision to the other telcos,” the Ministry writes.

While rightsholders will be pleased at the formalization of the site-blocking procedures, they will be universally unhappy at the lack of any kind of end-user punishment, such as the provisions currently available in France or those forthcoming in watered-down form in the US.

However, opponents of 3 strikes-style regimes are cautiously happy with the outcome.

“We are all very happy that the letter model has been pronounced dead by the Ministry of Culture. It is a huge victory for the internet and for the users,” says Troels Møller, co-founder of Internet-political think tank and digital rights group Bitbureauet.

“The anti-piracy outfits and copyright organizations didn’t get their way this time. I think it’s a brave decision by the politicians,” Møller told TorrentFreak.

“It is a good idea to focus on operating legal services in ways that ensure users actually want to use them, and to facilitate forums to work out new business models.”

Early indications are that rightsholders still want more, with suggestions that they will now lobby for the police to become more active in pursuing uploaders of copyright material.

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