Norway Faces Site Blocking Measures in Anti-Filesharing Bill

In common with many others around the world, the government of Norway see sites like The Pirate Bay as particularly responsible for the growth of file-sharing online but have had little success in stopping their activities. Following failed attempts by rightsholders to have the site censored by ISPs, this month the government will reveal its new proposals to tackle the problem. They are widely expected to include changes to copyright law to allow sites to be blocked, with The Pirate Bay at the top of the list.

Back in March 2009, the IFPI and several local movie studios began putting pressure on Telenor, Norway’s largest Internet service provider. It was a familiar tale – stop your subscribers from accessing The Pirate Bay, the ISP was told, or legal action will follow.

Following Telenor’s refusal the rightsholders kept their word and took the case to court, but things didn’t go well. In November 2009 a court ruled that the ISP had no obligation to block the world’s most infamous torrent site.

In February 2010 a subsequent rightsholder appeal was rejected as there was no basis under Norwegian law for the claim. IFPI and music rights outfit TONO said they appreciated the clarification of the law and together called for legislative change to “close the hole” in the country’s Copyright Act.

A year later and steps towards this goal were taking shape. In May 2011 the Ministry of Culture announced that it had put forward proposals for amendments to the Copyright Act which would “..give licensees the tools they need to follow-up on copyright infringement on the Internet, while protecting privacy.”

The key proposals included making it easier for rightsholders to identify infringers from their IP addresses and amendments to the law to allow ISP-level blocking of sites deemed to be infringing copyright.

This month the Norwegian government will finally present its new anti-piracy plan and as expected opposition is mounting against what some net activists and technologists see as the seeds of increasing Internet censorship.

“One of the greatest advantages of the internet is its openness. It concerns us if the government is willing to restrict this,” says Tore Tennøe of the Technology Council, an independent public body tasked with the promotion of debate on the opportunities and implications of new technologies.

“If the measures are indeed as they have been outlined, it will be a step towards more heavy-handed control. It’s something we’re used to seeing in countries that we do not like to compare ourselves with,” Tennøe adds.

Torgeir Waterhouse, Director of Internet and new media at IKT Norway, says that blocking measures will only enjoy short-term effectiveness and will be easily circumvented. Waterhouse also expresses concern about government plans to lift red tape enabling rightsholders to link harvested IP addresses to individuals more easily.

“In practice, this means that everyone who has recorded a song or composed a text will have the opportunity to monitor other people online,” he told NRK.no. “If you include all the licensees, we quickly arrive at between 1 and 2 million people who will get this opportunity, says Waterhouse.

“It is unrealistic to believe that the Data Protection Authority will have the capacity to conduct a thorough audit of all who are engaged in this business, and therefore this may soon threaten privacy,” he concludes.

The Norwegian government declined to comment before the bill is presented, although it previously stated that will happen this month.

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