Pirate Party and Anti-Piracy Outfits Get Permission to Spy on File-Sharers

Despite new legislation in Norway, not one site has been blocked nor a single file-sharer fined. However, behind the scenes there is a hive of activity, with more than a dozen entities now officially registered to spy on file-sharing networks. In addition to the usual anti-piracy groups more unusual applications include those from the Pirate Party and a hip hop artist who wants to track down pirates and buy them coffee and cakes.

spyOn July 1 a new anti-piracy law was passed in Norway that allows file-sharing sites to be blocked by local ISPs at the domain level.

The legislation also allows any rightsholder or group to spy on file-sharers providing they inform the country’s data inspectorate in advance. Over the past few months various outfits have been signing up, each with their own agenda for monitoring the Internet.

The MPA/MPAA, for example, have the infamous pirate-hunting lawfirm, Simonsen, scouring BitTorrent and other networks looking for people downloading and sharing Hollywood movies without permission.

As expected, the movie companies aren’t initially intending to use the information to launch a wave of lawsuits against individuals. Instead, the data will be used to justify site blockades, with The Pirate Bay front and center. Willy Johansen, Secretary General of the Norwegian Videograms Association, hopes that lawsuits against ISPs won’t be necessary.

“We want dialog, but if it does not succeed, we must consider other measures,” Johansen says.

Ragnar Bjerkreimselva, chairman of the Norwegian Society for Composers and Lyricists, also confirms that the public isn’t a target. “We are looking for the illegal services, we are not looking to go after our own audience,” he says.

A surprise addition to the list of Internet snoopers is the Pirate Party. They put in their notification to the data inspectorate in the same manner as the anti-piracy outfits but their agenda is somewhat different.

“We plan to monitor the IP addresses associated with the Prime Minister’s office to see if the Pirate Party’s program is copied,” the Party reveals.

The full list of organizations registered so far totals 13, the majority of which are anti-piracy groups. However, there is another interesting entry in Aslak Borgersrud, former member of hip-hop group Gatas Parlament.

“I would like to know who the pirates are that our downloading our records, so I can invite them for coffee and cakes,” he said.

Although Aslak doesn’t reveal how he will be going about that act of friendliness, at least one of the anti-piracy groups has spoken about their techniques. Surprisingly, Rights Alliance suggest that rather than participating in swarms themselves, they intend to scrape information from BitTorrent trackers instead.

“The tracker reveals who is breaking the law,” says Rune Ljøstad of the Simonsen law firm.

For the purposes of general data collection, tracker scraping is probably accurate enough but if the group wished to progress to chasing down individuals the technique is flawed. There are various techniques to inject fake IP addresses into tracker reports which has the potential to cause all sorts of difficulties (and defenses for those accused), which is something to consider if the studios carry out their veiled threats.

“We have already begun efforts to collect the IP addresses of people who use pirate sites,” says Willy Johansen.

“We collect only the information, and so far we have not gone to court to demand to know the identity of those involved with this. But it may be appropriate to do that later.”

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