Despite hundreds of arrests, the closure of dozens of pirate sites and numerous successful prosecutions, most entities fighting piracy believe that the tools at their disposal need to be improved.
In daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter, a broad coalition of content creators, distributors and anti-piracy bodies from the movie, music, TV show, games and publishing industries, come together to seek more support to defeat piracy.
Representatives from the IFPI, Rights Alliance (which represents Hollywood) and half a dozen powerful distribution, gaming and publishing groups say that the government isn’t doing anywhere enough to protect creators and clamp down on illegal activity.
Their open letter (Swedish) welcomes a promise in the September budget to increasing funding for informational campaigns and the possibility of introducing a new offense of “serious copyright violation”, but says they represent just “small steps” and won’t be anywhere near enough to stop the problem.
“When will the government see the potential of the creative industries and ensure a decent protection for creative content online?” the groups ask.
“Intellectual and creative content industries are playing an increasingly important role in the digital knowledge society that is emerging. European governments are competing to lay the foundation for growth in the intangible economy. A strong legal protection of copyright in the digital market is a key part of that effort.”
Noting that Sweden is often considered to be among the digital elite due to its superb broadband system and successful tech startups, the industry groups say that the country is among the very worst when it comes to protecting intellectual property rights. Almost a third of Swedes use illegal sites to access film and television, they say.
“The winners of today’s order are often heavily criminal groups abroad who earn millions of dollars running illegal sites distributing pirated movies, TV shows, music, books and games,” the industry groups write.
“The creative industries and its creators are losing billions, which affects growth and employment, but also the supply of culture as new investments are canceled due to lack of finances.”
So what can be done to stop the rot? Unsurprisingly, the huge corporations behind the open letter want a more useful and sympathetic legal system.
“We need stricter laws. The judiciary still lacks the necessary tools to access the often heavy criminal actors behind the illegal sites. For Sweden to move from the bottom rung to at least a decent level of protection for creative content, single points are not enough,” they add.
When it comes to their actual demands, the shortlist isn’t much of a surprise. The industry groups want to be able to do three things – deal with piracy at its roots, close a perceived loophole in the law, and if all else fails, stop the public from accessing pirate sites.
The first involves introducing new legislation which would frame high levels of copyright infringement in a more serious light. This would enable rightsholders to more effectively target the “heavy criminals” behind pirate sites.
The second request involves the continued rise of streaming. As recently reported, the number of citizens involved in P2P file-sharing is on the decline in Sweden, but the same cannot be said about those who stream unauthorized content from web-based services. To that end, the industry groups want legal clarification regarding “temporary copies of copyrighted works.”
Finally, they seek “clarification of the Internet operators’ responsibility to block illegal sites as they do in the other Nordic countries and in numerous European countries.”
This request stems from frustrations with efforts to have The Pirate Bay and other sites blocked by local ISPs and/or have their domains seized by the state. A case involving the latter is headed to the Supreme Court after a prolonged legal battle and earlier this year, police called website blocks without legal process.
“The government must recognize the seriousness of the situation and be prepared to go the distance. The government must also dare to look ahead,” the industry groups write.
“Creative professions are expected to become increasingly important for employment and growth in the future. So why hesitate? Sweden can not afford to wait. When will the government act to ensure adequate protection of creative content in the digital market?” they conclude.