The last few months have turned the possibility of disconnecting file-sharers from the Internet into a hot topic. France has been at the forefront of pushing disconnections and many other countries have indicated they would like to implement similar policies, despite objections and concerns that such actions are a disproportionate response to personal file-sharing activities. So far, the general impression is that we are a long way from these things actually happening. Until today.
According to a Piraattiliitto report, the Copyright Information and Anti-piracy Centre (CIAPC) in Finland has used a copyright law which came into force January 1st 2006, to have a file-sharer disconnected from the Internet. However, this drastic action – which is thought to be the first anti-piracy related disconnection in Europe – comes with additional controversy. This wasn’t some kid sharing files from his bedroom on a residential connection, this was a government employee using a government internet connection to share music videos.
In true disproportionate anti-piracy style, this fact didn’t stop CIAPC from getting the government connection severed via the Ahvenanmaan District Court. According to CIAPC the connection, operated by the ISP Ã…lands Datakommunikation, was being used by the Provincial Government of Ã…land. It is unclear if this action caused any disruption to legitimate government business but it’s probably safe to say that it didn’t help it in any way.
Ã…land Executive Niklas Karlman said of the incident: “As an employer, we must ensure that employees do not engage in illegal activities. We are taking steps to raise awareness among our employees. We are aware of this threat to our security.”
According to the report, the Finnish copyright lobby ‘sneaked’ the disconnection sanction into copyright law without the legislators hearing the opinions of any independent legal or technical experts. The process has been harshly criticized by Electronic Frontier Finland (EFFI). EFFI vice chairman Ville Oksanen characterizes the legislation process “one of the dirtiest he has ever seen”.
The action also goes directly against the European Parliament who, this April, condemned state plans to authorize the disconnection of suspected file-sharers from the Internet. European Parliament said that disconnecting petty file-sharers would be “conflicting with civil liberties and human rights and with the principles of proportionality, effectiveness and dissuasiveness”.
It seems that even government activity can be disrupted these days in the name of copyright enforcement.