A year ago today, Sweden introduced its highly controversial IPRED legislation designed to make it easier find and take action against illicit file-sharers.
The entertainment industries, who were hugely in favor of the new law, said it would lead to decreases in illegal file-sharing, boost online availability of media and encourage citizens to spend money legitimately in official online stores.
Critics said that IPRED would boost file-sharing overall, increase usage of alternative methods to obtain unofficial media, would lead to people taking measures to cover their tracks online and prove to be ineffective.
According to a multitude of sources, IPRED has done the impossible. It has both increased and decreased file-sharing, increased availability of both legal and illegal material online while more money is being spent than ever before – not only on authorized media but bandwidth and VPNs too.
It hasn’t always been good news though. Suppliers of Internet bandwidth saw their business torn apart this time last year when 30% of their market disappeared overnight as casual file-sharers panicked about being locked up in jail forever for using The Pirate Bay. Luckily ISPs survived the year and their trade soon bounced back and on to record levels.
As 2009 progressed, for many Swedish file-sharers the fears mounted in the background. Would they be first to receive a scary letter in the mail? Would their life be ruined for sharing unauthorized material? Would the music and movie industries go on the rampage with the hundreds of IPRED cases the Swedish Government had predicted?
Hardly. Sure, a few book publishers got a bit uppity and tried to force ISP Ephone to hand over some customer information (that case is off to the Supreme Court) but so far, not one individual has been convicted of an IPRED-related offense.
Even the IFPI haven’t taken much advantage of their new powers having used them only once to go after a single file-sharer, an individual who may be simply warned once IFPI know his or her identity.
Nevertheless, IPRED is still doing its magic and being all things to all men.
Research by the Cyber Norms sociological research project showed that just before IPRED was introduced, 22% of respondents didn’t download illegally. By September 2009 that had jumped to 39%.
Yet one month later, Bonver, a company providing bricks and mortar stores with DVD movies, said that since the introduction of IPRED, rental had increased by a 40% with online movie downloads up 115%.
And all this while record numbers of Swedes turned to services to make them anonymous on the Internet. But what are they doing on their secret connections? That’s the thing…..no-one really knows anymore, but considering the music industry’s next announcement, it seemed doubtful it was for file-sharing.
In January 2010, IFPI announced that music sales were up 10.2% in 2009, which represented the first increase in revenue since 2000. IFPI chairman Ludvig Werner put this success down to better online availability and, of course, the introduction of IPRED.
But no sooner had the champagne been cracked open, a new study by independent consultancy firm MediaVision revealed that the accessing of illicit material online was actually on the increase.
But don’t despair. Even Kjell Bohlund of the Swedish Publishers’ Association is happy today, as he notes that the illegal file sharing of books has declined in favor of legal sales.
So all this leads to conclude that as of today, April 1st 2010, IPRED must surely be the greatest piece of anti-piracy legislation ever.
Not only does it allow the music, movie and book industries to increase revenue and improve online availability of authorized material, it also reduces piracy and allows it flourish at the same time. File-sharers are being left alone to do their thing while spending more money than they have done in a decade, while VPN suppliers wonder how they’re going to spend all their money.
But the greatest winners are those that commission surveys – spare a thought for them as they sip champagne on their yachts.