European Countries Amp Up War on Piracy

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The entertainment industry battle to decrease the use of file-sharing networks to share copyrighted content never seems to end. Just this week, four more European member states came out with initiatives to continue to crackdown on piracy, many of which are not only draconian, but also doomed to fail.

Let’s begin with Sweden, the home of The Pirate Bay, where two prosecutors were hired last year to investigate copyright crimes. The prosecutors have since become frustrated with the police because they don’t have the resources to investigate copyright crimes. To fix this problem 15 policemen are now allocated to assist in hunting down copyright infringers in an effort to reduce piracy.

Meanwhile, a report from a political advisory committee in The Netherlands is calling for harsher copyright legislation. Presently, downloading movies and music for personal use in The Netherlands is seen as “fair use” and not punishable by law. In their advice to the government, the committee suggests changing this position in order to reduce the mass downloading that they say has become a national sport in the country.

Interestingly, the committee recognizes that the entertainment industry caused the piracy problem themselves, at least in part. They therefore say that tougher anti-piracy legislation should only be implemented if there are enough legal alternatives, something that’s lacking in The Netherlands at the moment. This all sounds very reasonable compared to what is being proposed in the UK.

The long awaited Digital Britain report was published this week, a road map of how the entertainment industries and ISPs should tackle online piracy. In short, the government proposes to track down and warn people who share copyrighted content. The personal details of repeated copyright infringers will be handed over to the entertainment industry, if they have a court order.

In reality this means that everything stays pretty much the same. UK ISPs have already started warning their copyright infringing customers last year, and the details of many alleged downloaders have been given out to the rights holders represented by law firms such as Davenport Lyons and ACS:Law. However, if the warning letters fail to decrease the piracy rate dramatically, things may get very nasty in the UK.

The report points out that when the warning letters fail, ISPs may be forced to reduce the connection speeds and download limits of individual customers, block access to sites such as The Pirate Bay or pull a Comcast and block BitTorrent traffic altogether. In addition, ISPs may block specific ports if needed and spy on their customers download habits though DPI techniques.

Just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse we stumbled upon some worrying news surfacing in Lithuania this week. The local anti-piracy body LANVA has proposed a rather far reaching agreement to the country’s ISPs. LANVA suggests that the ISPs start monitoring their customers’ browsing and downloading habits and report any suspect behavior back to them.

In addition, the anti-piracy group wants access to the ISP’s servers within 24 hours if needed, and the personal details of any of the ISP’s customers who are suspected of copyright infringement. The content creators on the other hand will have to equip all their products with DRM to “minimize” the piracy rate.

Not only do these proposals violate several human rights, the proposal to add DRM to all products will only have the opposite effect when it comes to reducing piracy. LANVA’s boss has previously received death threats for going after pirates and we’re beginning to suspect that this has seriously impacted his sanity.

It’s doubtful that these proposals throughout Europe will have the desired effect. If anything, it will encourage those who use file-sharing networks to share copyrighted works to become more cautious. Indeed, less then a week after the anonymous BitTorrent download application BitBlinder launched they already have 30,000 users, and The Pirate Bay’s VPN service currently has close to 200,000 people on the waiting list.

If people don’t like these laws, they will find a way to neutralize them. There is no technical solution to the piracy ‘problem’.

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