By Patrick Lannin
STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - A raid on a Swedish internet firm last week,
hailed by the entertainment industry as a blow against piracy of songs
and movies, has sparked a debate in the high-tech country over
confidentiality rights and file sharing.
Bailiffs and police raided Internet firm Bahnhof seeking pirate files
on servers. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA),
representing major Hollywood studios, said digital film and music was
seized which would take 3-1/2 years to watch and listen to.
The raid was initiated by a group called the Antipirate Bureau, which
represents the music and film industry.
But now the investigators are being investigated. The government-owned
Data Inspection Office and the telecoms sector supervisor want to see
whether the Bureau broke confidentiality rules by obtaining the
Internet Protocol (IP) addresses of people it suspects of illegal file
An IP address, which is given to computers for identification and data
traffic regulation on the Internet, enables investigators to identify
a computer and hence an individual.
But under Swedish law, access to IP addresses is strictly regulated.
"We are likely to open an investigation after Easter," said a
spokeswoman for the Data Inspection.
The National Post and Telecom agency said it would investigate whether
the IP addresses were obtained from telecoms operators, in which case
it would be the operators that would have to be investigated further.
The Antipirate Bureau, whose Web Site has been hacked, was not
available to comment.
One of its managers, lawyer Henrik Ponten, told newspaper Svenska
Dagbladet this week that the industry could not stand by "with its
arms folded while the sector is robbed."
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But high-profile figures from Sweden's tech world have also come
forward to attack the tactics of raiding Bahnhof.
Jonas Birgersson, who founded one of Sweden's most successful dotcom
consultancies and is still involved in the Internet via his Labs2
business, said the raid was heavyhanded and smacked of "1984" methods,
referring to the George Orwell novel about an imaginary police state.
He said the music business should go the other way, and offer films
and music at affordable prices to download.
"Why do we start using these risky methods? We think people would like
to pay if it was cheap enough," he told Reuters.
A group called the Pirate Bureau, which supports file sharing and
scaled-down copyright laws, said it estimated that around 100 million
downloads of movies are made a year.
The incident has sparked a wider debate about the legality of file
In Sweden, it is legal to download copyrighted movie and music files,
but making them available for sharing is illegal. The legal loophole,
however, is about to be closed.
The Justice Ministry has just proposed a law to make both illegal,
bringing Sweden into line with the rest of the EU.
Still, without power to identify IP addresses, that new law may not
help the entertainment industry.
The MPAA says the film industry loses $3.5 billion a year to
videotapes and DVDs sold on the black market, but it has no estimate
for how much Internet piracy costs the industry.
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