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?
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