Tough New Piracy Law Sees No Takers in More Than a Year

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For years Norway was pressured to do something drastic against pirates and 12 months ago this week the country introduced tough new legislation. But one year on and not a single file-sharer has been inquired about nor has a single site blocking request been filed. What's going on in Scandinavia?

For many years regular file-sharers in Norway have been largely free to go about their business with little concern for the consequences. A 2011 decision disallowed the only entity licensed to collect information on P2P networks from doing so, meaning that tracking pirates without permission would breach privacy laws.

In 2011 under significant rightsholder pressure, the Ministry of Culture announced amendments to the country’s Copyright Act alongside promises to give the entertainment industries the tools to go after pirates. Two years later in July 2013 the new law went into effect and as promised it gave the pirate hunters a sporting chance.

Out went the days of restrictions on P2P user monitoring and in came a system whereby groups seeking to spy on pirates only needed to get permission from the country’s Data Inspectorate. The big MPAA affiliates obtained permission within the first few months and promised to target uploaders, but what followed next?

Since it’s been a full 12 months since the start of the new law and seven months since the MPA obtained clearance to monitor, Hardware.no filed some questions with the Ministry of Culture to find out the state of play. It also contacted the Post and Telecommunications Authority to find out if any personal details of file-sharers had been handed over to copyright holders.

“The short answer is no,” said Deputy Director Elisabeth Aarsæther.

“From our point of view it looks like the word ‘share’ means go ahead and ‘steal’ among users. I cannot say for certain that nothing will happen going forward, but we have not received any requests so far.”

Aarsæther said that the lack of requests might have something to do with the greater number of legal services now available online. However, there also appears to be a lack of interest from copyright holders who only need to register with the authorities in order to collect IP addresses.

“We took stock moments ago, and we have not received any new messages in a long time,” senior Data Inspectorate adviser Guro Skåltveit told Hardware. “There are currently twelve entities who have advised us and can now collect data.”

Eleven of that dozen registered back in the fall of 2013, and they include a successful application from the Norwegian Pirate Party. Thus far in 2014 there has only been one new application. None have sought personal details.

Finally the new law allows for the blocking of sites confirmed to breach copyright law, but again there has been little visible movement on that front. The industries’ main target, the infamous Pirate Bay, remains accessible in the country despite threats to have it blocked in court. However, this process was expected to take some time, particularly since local ISPs are refusing to do anything voluntarily.

After lobbying hard for new laws over many years one might have expected rightsholders to use every tool available to them as quickly as possible, but for some reason they’re gathering dust 12 months on. It may well be that chasing down individuals has become unpalatable, especially alongside efforts to woo consumers with better legal offerings.

Time will tell what the strategy is going forward, but for now Norwegian file-sharers can rest easy. Their next challenge probably won’t be a letter in the post, but the puzzle of how to unblock The Pirate Bay.

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