After Eliminating Music Piracy, Norway Hits ‘First’ Movie Site

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Rights Alliance chief Willy Johansen says that his anti-piracy group has shut down its first Norway-based movie piracy site. Police raided the operator of the Norskfilm portal and the man subsequently confessed, but with music piracy all but eliminated in the country, isn't this just a return to force over finesse?

norkseDue to the borderless nature of the Internet, online piracy is very much an international affair. The world’s most popular torrent and streaming sites attract audiences from all around the globe.

Nevertheless, there are hundreds of smaller sites that have a much more geographically restricted aims in mind as they cater to mainly local audiences. Norway’s Norskfilm.net was one such site.

The site appeared on the radar of anti-piracy group Rights Alliance (Rettighetsalliansen) during the past year although at one point appears to be have been hosted in the United States. Offering international movies and TV shows on top of local content and subtitles, Norskfilm soon became the subject of a criminal investigation.

Following hundreds of tweets announcing the latest movies, last month the site’s Twitter account fell silent and soon after the site itself disappeared. Rights Alliance chief Willy Johansen now says that was due to his organization closing down its very first ‘pirate’ website.

“This is the first time we have succeeded in halting a page operated from Norway,” Johansen told local media Friday.

Lawyer Torje Arneson confirmed that Vestfold Police had raided the home of a 20-year-old man and seized computer and telecommunications equipment. After questioning the man confessed and was subsequently charged with copyright infringement offenses.

While Norwegian police have previously investigated ‘scene’ groups and anti-piracy companies have chased down key individuals in special file-sharing cases, in recent years raids against websites have been pretty much non-existent.

Instead, groups like Rights Alliance have focused on pushing for fresh legislation enabling them to monitor file-sharing networks and have ISPs block sites at the subscriber level.

But according to Johansen it’s still not enough. As it stands today the flow of pirate movies simply cannot be stopped and with the advent of services such as Popcorn Time and their increasing popularity in Scandinavia, there can only be one solution.

“I think we need a change of legislation,” Johansen says.

But is that really needed? According to figures from the music industry, almost certainly not.

During December 2014 music industry group IFPI conducted a nationwide survey among under 30-year-olds and discovered that just 4% of respondents were using illegal file-sharing platforms to obtain music. A similar 2009 IFPI survey returned a figure of 70%. The reason for the drop? Improved legal music platforms.

“We are now offering services that are both better and more user-friendly than illegal platforms. In [the past] five years, we have virtually eliminated illegal file sharing in the music industry,” said IFPI Norway chief Marte Thorsby.

But as highlighted again last month, the movie industry is still painting itself into a corner. Instead of making content freely available from the start, its windowing business model ensures that the public is kept waiting for months to be granted access to content. This only fuels piracy.

Fix that and there will not only be no need for new laws in Norway, but also less need for Rights Alliance to shut down its second pirate movie site.

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