Anyone obtaining and sharing files on the Internet should be aware of the risk that someone, somewhere, might consider their behavior to constitute a breach of their rights. If people are eventually held to account, painful monetary fines can be the outcome. However, a new initiative by the youth division of the Swedish Pirate Party aims to soften the blow for those unlucky enough to get caught by paying their copyright infringement fines.
As the pastime of file-sharing attracts more and more followers, questions are asked not only about the technical issues involved, but also the legal aspects.
Questions such as where to find the best sites and how to speed up downloads are increasingly matched by queries on how to stay anonymous and keep the right side of the law.
Using a VPN or similar tool is a route taken by many individuals who wish to fly under the radar but a new scheme just launched by Ung Pirat, the youth division of the Swedish Pirate Party, aims to solve the problem via a different route.
“The laws governing your use of the Internet are changing all the time. It is difficult to always keep up to date on what has changed,” their company Sharing is Caring explains.
“There are a plethora of different licenses for images, text and music that regulate what you can do with the material. Often it is not clear what rules apply. Often the rules are pretty stupid.”
To help remove some of the uncertainty, Sharing is Caring has just launched an organization called K-Kassan (K-Fund) which will help clear up the mess for those caught sharing files.
“Our organization pays fines that people get for non-commercial file-sharing over peer-to-peer protocols,” Sharing is Caring told TorrentFreak.
“The Internet is hard to navigate when you try to stay legal. The rules are advanced and very unclear,” they add. “Can people stream stuff legally? Can people tell the legal from the illegal stuff on The Pirate Bay? What happens if people’s kids download illegal stuff?”
The way it works sounds fairly straightforward. File-sharers seeking protection will sign up to the scheme and contribute around $39 each to a central fund to be called on in the event that a member is targeted.
“This amount goes to the collective account along with the starting capital we have, and every time a member gets a fine for file sharing, we fund 100% of the fine,” we were informed.
Sharing is Caring say that with the scheme they hope to offer reassurance to file-sharers.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty about these questions in society. So instead of forcing people to live in fear, they can now join our organization, and they won’t have to worry about making mistakes that end up in fines,” they conclude.
The scheme is certainly food for thought. Despite the increase in Swedish file-sharing cases in recent years the odds of being held to account for copyright infringement are statistically still very low indeed. That being said, new cases are appearing every month and could be set to rise.
However, it’s worth mentioning that in most recent cases involving a guilty verdict, on top of fines there has been some other element to file-sharers’ punishments, such as suspended sentences. Additionally, while this scheme covers the payment of fines, it does not yet cover rightholder damages claims.
On the flip side the membership fee is quite low, on a par with the cost of a value for money VPN service. Also, the shared interest element of the project may enhance the sense of community for those involved in the scheme and could potentially cause it to develop into a hub offering help and advice for file-sharers on a larger scale.
Only time will tell what users will come to rely on. Technology, insurance, or good old fashioned luck.