In the early 2000s, Sweden was considered to be a relatively safe haven for pirates.
The country was the home of the Pirate Bay, the birthing ground of the Pirate Party, and a place where for many citizens file-sharing was second nature.
Today, this safe haven has long disappeared. The Scandinavian country has prosecuted several torrent site operators, including The Pirate Bay’s founders, while lawsuits targeting individual BitTorrent users are a common sight.
In many ways, Sweden has become a copyright enforcement hotspot. This includes the ‘copyright-trolling’ phenomenon, in which movie companies target hundreds or thousands of alleged pirates hoping to secure monetary settlements.
The first wave of these lawsuits started three years ago but the practice has grown exponentially since. According to Swedish Internet provider Bahnhof, which has kept track of these cases since early 2017, the number of new cases has already broken a record this year.
During the first three quarters of 2019, a total of 78 new applications were submitted to the Patent and Market Court. This is up from 72 during the whole of 2018, and substantially more than the 27 applications that were filed a year earlier.
While the number of applications has grown, the cases target fewer IP-addresses in total. Last year over 50,000 IPs were targeted and the 2019 total so far is 26,274 IP addresses. Combined with the 2017 numbers, we see that more than 100,000 IP-addresses have been targeted over the past three years.
It’s worth noting that this exceeds the number of targets in other, much larger countries, including the United States.
This type of data is not something an Internet provider would generally release, but it makes sense considering that Bahnhof is an active anti-copyright trolling advocate. The company categorically refuses to share data with copyright holders, as it also makes clear in its press release.
While Bahnhof must retain IP-address logs by law, it operates separate databases. Data is only disclosed to law enforcement authorities for specific purposes and not for this type of copyright enforcement.
“This means that Bahnhof’s customers have not suffered from this type of extortion letter,” the Internet provider notes.
Looking at the targeted ISPs over the past year we see that most of the targeted IP-addresses belong to Telia subscribers, followed by Com Hem, and Telenor. The rightsholders who file these cases are represented by a variety of law firms, including the well known Njord Law.
While Bahnhof is indirectly using these figures to promote its own business, the company hopes that these ‘copyright-trolling’ practices will eventually end, perhaps following an intervention from the Government. According to the company, the entire process is based on extortion.
“The success factor of the letters is partly that they can easily be mistaken for genuine invoices or fines, and the threat of a legal process that drives people to pay out of pure fear, even when they are innocent. The business model is thus based on regular extortion,” Bahnhof notes.
The Swedish Internet provider also maintains a dedicated website called Utpressningskollen where it provides additional details and information on Swedish copyright-trolling efforts.