Swedish internet traffic has plummeted as a new anti-piracy law has come into force.
Under the new law, internet service providers (ISPs) have to hand over the IP addresses of customers that a court determines may be engaging in illegal activity such as file sharing. The information will be passed onto the copyright owner of the content the court believes has been “stolen”.
Although there has been no official statement from Sweden’s ISPs, the law seems to have had an immediate impact on the number people surfing the web in the country.
According to Computer Sweden, internet traffic in the country was down 30 per cent lower yesterday afternoon than at the same time the day before.
Internet use took a similar plunge three years ago after a raid on the Stockholm offices of the notorious file-sharing website Pirate Bay. The founders of the site were charged early last year by a Swedish prosecutor with conspiracy to break copyright law and related offences, and the verdict is due on April 17.
The new law seems likely to provoke a rash of legal action. On the day the law came into force, five audiobook publishers went to court to try to determine the identity of someone they claim has 2,000 audio books stored on a server.
Kjell Bohlund, chairman of the Swedish Publishers’ Association said that the illegal sharing of audiobooks has increased in the last year prompting legal measures. “It has hit writers, publishers, and Internet book retailers financially, and there is a longer-term risk that publication will decline”, he said in a statement.
The next big case is currently being prepared by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, a body representing the music industry, and will target people who share music illegally.
The Swedish Pirate Party, which has been gaining increasing support since its foundation on January 1, 2006, has responded to the law by urging its members to stop encrypting their wi-fi networks. This means that it would be impossible to sentence an individual for file sharing as everyone will be using an open and anonymous network. Police in Sweden have raised concerns that this could proliferate the spread of materials like child pornography.
The move by the Swedish Government follows similar legislation in Belgium and France. The UK music industry had been championing a “three strikes and you’re out” policy, whereby customers would be cut off if they ignored warnings to stop sharing files, but EU officials voted against this plan in September.