Swedish ISPs Obstruct New Anti-Piracy Legislation

While all eyes were on the Pirate Bay trial, Swedish parliament passed the IPRED law, making it easier for copyright holders to go after illicit file-sharers . The law has only been in effect for one month and anti-piracy outfits are already facing problems using it, as ISPs take measures to protect their customers.

The controversial Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Directive (IPRED) has gathered opposition from various sides, most notably half of the Swedish public. The law, which gives rights holders the authority to request the personal details of alleged copyright infringers, has also been met with resistance from ISPs.

As early as November, an op-ed was written by ISP Bahnhof’s CEO Jon Karlung where he stated his company would not hand over the information. “In its current version, the law makes no difference between computers and users. And meanwhile, it makes spies out of the ISPs,” he wrote at the time.

In a recent interview with Swedish national radio he reiterated this position and said ISPs are not legally bound to store information related to their customers’ IP-addresses. Hence, Bahnhof stopped storing user data and has no information to hand over, even if a court orders it. And Bahnhof isn’t on its own in taking this action.

Today, major operator Tele2 (over 600,000 customers) declared they will follow Bahnhof’s example and without delay stop storing this type of user data. “Previously, we have stored some information about our customer’s IP addresses for internal use, but now the privacy issue has been pushed this far with the IPRED discussion. We do this to strengthen our customers’ privacy,” said Tele2’s Swedish CEO Niclas
Palmstierna.

“There’s is nothing in the Electronic Communications Law that decides what we should store, only what we shouldn’t store. We have analyzed the legislation carefully and found that we have no obligations at all to store information about our customers’ IP addresses,” he continued.

Peter Danowsky, IFPI lawyer and legal representative in the first IPRED case, is not impressed with the ISPs opposition, and claims he can change the law. “Everyone in the parliament has been operating under the assumption that the ISPs are loyal to the legislation and don’t want to participate in breaking the law. If Tele2 takes this attitude and other operators follow, there will be a stronger law in the future,” he stated.

As if Danowsky’s self-proclaimed parliamentary status didn’t take enough time, he’s also having difficulties getting information about the ‘owner’ of an IP address in the first IPRED case.

Acting on a mission from five book publishers, Danowsky handed a request to a local court for information about the owner of an FTP-server where audio books were stored. Although it was a private FTP and the audio books couldn’t have been made available to the public, the court ordered the ISP Ephone to hand over the information of the person behind the IP-address. But Ephone refused.

“The evidence that the publishers have submitted is incomplete,” wrote Ephone’s lawyer in a response to the court. It mainly consisted of screenshots and log files, which Ephone says isn’t enough. Furthermore, they claim that releasing the information is contrary to the basic right for protection of an individual’s privacy. “For us, the level of evidence to disclose information on an IP-address must be very high,” said CEO Bo Wigstrande.

It’s good to see that ISPs are willing to stand up for the privacy their customers. In this they are backed by the European Parliament that spoke out in favor of amendment 138/46 of the Telecoms Package several times, stating that the right to privacy of Internet users may not be restricted without prior ruling by the judicial authorities.

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