Sweden, Paradise Lost: Part 2 – Private Police Forces

In our series showcasing Sweden as a country that likes to pretend it champions net freedom, but itself does the exact opposite: did you know that Sweden has given the copyright industry powers of net surveillance that even the Police don’t have?

Sweden likes to portray itself as a country that champions the importance of the net and its freedom, and is never late to criticize other countries, but is one of the worst offenders in the West when it comes to respecting this fantastic tool that upsets the old guard and the status quo.

Today, we look at the curious IPRED law in Sweden. It was introduced in silence and shadow in the summer of 2007 by the Justice Department’s Stefan Johansson, who has also been Sweden’s and the EU’s negotiator at the ACTA table, and who has frequently been seen at Sweden’s Association For Copyright.

The really insidious thing about the IPRED law is its name: it copies the name from a European directive (IPRED), but legislates things that the European directive explicitly doesn’t contain or force Sweden to do. Therefore, politicians of all colors have defended themselves saying that Sweden must implement European Union directives, whereas in reality, they are pursuing their own agenda and trying to wash their hands of responsibility.

The law concerns the copyright industry’s right to violate privacy – specifically, demanding subscriber identities of IP addresses, on allegations of violation of the copyright monopoly (typically, file sharing), and sue them in court where presumption of innocence does not apply. In Sweden, the Police may only break the privacy of identities behind IP addresses when the crime being investigated is severe enough to result in a jail sentence. But most file sharing cases have stayed at fines, and therefore, the Police does not have this power.

So Sweden has granted private corporate interests – the copyright industry – more extensive powers than the Police, in terms of cracking down on the Net and making dissent and civil disobedience dangerous.

As IPRED was voted through on February 25, 2009, the Pirate Party got a significant member boost. When the law took effect on April 1, 2009, the net traffic in Sweden dropped by 40% overnight. (The copyright industry in other countries frequently mentions this as an effective legislation. They fail to mention that traffic levels were back to normal levels six months later, though.)

The first IPRED case has gone as high as the European Court of Justice, and a precedent verdict was handed down a couple of days ago that confirms that the copyright industry can be given more powers than the Police.

An op-ed two days ago asked the best question regarding Swedish information policy: Why is net freedom always a matter for foreign policy, but never for domestic policy?

Next: A Comprehensive Civilian DNA Database.

Previous: General Wiretapping.

Rick Falkvinge

Rick is the founder of the first Pirate Party and a low-altitude motorcycle pilot.

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Discussion

  1. LE

    I don’t want to live on this planet anymore.

    Politicians are generally bright people but there is an obvious issue with the Internet in Swedish politics. If the people deciding about the future of a technology does not understand its nature, how can we trust them to make the right choice?

    1. darkmatter

      Wow. I really don’t know what to say. Probably thanks or what the fuck. However, keep up the great work Rick. I’m fighting our battles here on another front… There are still more fields and parts of society where our philosophies are utterly needed… I guess it’s best if we all do what we’re best at and try advocating freedom of information within that field.. That would give maximum “impact” in some sense…

    2. darkmatter

      Umm, the post wasn’t really a response to you but rather a comment on Rick’s piece… Sorry for the potential confusion dude!

  2. truin

    I really enjoy the insightful articles on this website and I thank all of the writers for their articles.
    However the site itself is incredibly heavy and cluttered. My desktop PC has sufficient specs to run modern games and my connection is 10/1 mbps so the general lagginess isn’t caused by them (my mini laptop takes at least 1 minute to load any of this sites pages and scrolling pages is a b*tch with it).
    I’m wondering if you have planned any kind of major revamp to make the site more usable.

    Keep up the good work!

  3. Tor

    “did you know that Sweden has given the copyright industry powers of net surveillance that even the Police don’t have?”

    Yes. Did you know that the Swedish government has found this unreasonable and for that reason (among others) wants to give the police increased powers of net surveillance? See page 102 of prop 2011/12:55 where this is very explicit. It even says that this has been the assumption all along. The proposal is likely to be passed into law within three weeks (10th of May).

    1. darkmatter

      WHAT? That’s insane… It’s Iron Curtain – but … reversed. Just some 20 years ago we were the GOOD guys over here and the baddies were on the OTHER side of that curtain… People were willing to DIE to get across that curtain. It was that terrible to live in a surveillance society like DDR.

      1. Rick Falkvinge

        Darkmatter,

        indeed. Just like that. You may want to read this column I wrote just over a year ago:

        How did we become the ones we weren’t?

        Re-reading it today gives me the chills. Brrrrr.

        Cheers,
        Rick

  4. […] Sweden, Paradise Lost: Part 2 – Private Police Forces ; Drones to soar over US and #Canada sooner than thought? ; FAA Releases Lists of Drone Certificates—Many Questions Left Unanswered – […]

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  6. […] Private industries with more far-reaching powers than the Police. You've read the whole article. Why not subscribe to the RSS flow using your favorite reader, or […]

  7. […] It’s even been so bad that corporations have received seats at the negotiation tables, but the public has been kept out. In some cases this has gone to absurd lengths – like when the Swedish copyright hawk Stefan Johansson, who led the EU ACTA negotiations during the Swedish EU presidency, deliberately tried to keep the governments of the United Kingdom and Italy in the dark about a “three strikes” scheme. (Stefan Johansson works in the Swedish Justice department, and allegedly also drafted the infamous Swedish IPRED law.) […]

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