Swedish “Pirates’” Call for IP Reform Spurs Global Interest 04/09/2006 by Dugie Standeford for Intellectual Property Watch 1 Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)By Dugie Standeford for Intellectual Property Watch A Swedish political movement seeking drastic changes to intellectual property law is resonating internationally, according to a spokesman for the group called the Pirate Party. The party, whose platform calls for fair and balanced copyright, the abolition of patents and increased individual privacy protection, last month put its principles into action with the launch of a commercial “darknet” that lets Internet users swap content anonymously. Music industry and digital rights experts, however, said the darknet itself is no more of a threat to traditional copyright than existing peer-to-peer (P2P) networks. The Pirates want national law reformed to regulate only commercial use and copying of protected works. “To share copies, or otherwise spread or use works for non-profit uses, must never be illegal since such fair use benefits all of society,” its Declaration of Principles states. It urges reduction of the term of protection for commercial copyright to five years from date of publication, with an immediate right to make derivative works. Digital rights management should be banned unless it would lead to “obvious disadvantages for the consumer,” in which case there must be clear product warnings, the platform says. Non-commercial distribution of published culture, information or knowledge – unless it contains personal data – must not be limited or punished. Patents are obsolete and unnecessary and should be abolished, the Pirate Party said. “By keeping information on things like file formats and interfaces secret, [large corporations] try to create vendor lock-in, thereby limiting competition with a blatant disregard for the value of free market forces.” Finally, the party seeks legislation banning the reading or accessing of e-mail, text messages and other communications. It is also pushing for repeal of the European Union directive requiring retention of Internet and telephony traffic data for law enforcement purposes. “Of Concern to All Humanity” The Pirate Party website launched in January 2006 as a way to swing parliamentary votes, the group said. Within two days the site received more than three million hits and the first thousand members joined. Pirate Parties have now begun, or are starting, in 16 countries, including the United States, Russia, many European nations, and Brazil. “We are not as much actively spreading our message internationally as we are being contacted by people from different countries around the world,” said party spokesman Tor Skude. “We do not concentrate on any part of the world, as our Pirate politics is of concern to all humanity.” The website contains an international collaboration page: http://www.pp-international.net. The International Federation for the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) Sweden considers the Pirates “a serious political party” entitled to its own view on copyright, said Legal Advisor Magnus Martensson. The association will never agree with its platform, however, and, in fact, wants Internet services providers to bear even more responsibility than they do now for combating infringement. Robin Bynoe, a senior counsel at the Charles Russell law firm in London, called the platform “strange.” There are reasonable arguments in favour of use of online content without authorisation and cutting back the term of copyright protection. But the idea of patent abolition is ill thought-out, he said, and the principles curiously omit any mention of trademark, when there is a good argument that trademark owners have far too many rights under current laws. The Pirates have some worthwhile arguments but are not advancing them well, Bynoe said, adding that they appear to be more interested in gaining protection for getting free music tracks online than in serious intellectual property reform. Bynoe criticised the state of the copyright reform movement in the United Kingdom. Unlike in the United States, Sweden and elsewhere, Britons have not expressed much interest in issues such as the term of protection, although the British Phonographic Industry is seeking to extend it. No organised group exists in the United Kingdom to promote new ideas and copyright lawyers are not providing the “thoughtful challenge to the status quo” of, say, Stanford University law professor Lawrence Lessig. The only people debating digital copyright issues in the UK are those keen to get free music online, Bynoe said, making the level of discussion “very shallow.” Darknet Technology Not Seen as a Threat The Pirate Party’s darknet service works by exchanging the Internet Protocol number a user gets from his Internet service provider to an anonymous number, creating an encrypted link between the user’s computer and the Internet. It is touted as one of the first commercial darknets. Non-commercial networks such as Tor have existed for some time, but their users tend to be more technologically savvy than the general public, Skude said. “Two of the main reasons to use a commercial service like Relakks instead of a free service [Relakks charges €5 per month] is that it has much more capacity and speed, and that it’s easier to use for the not-so-skilled average Internet user.” The spectre of innumerable music and other files being shared anonymously does not scare IFPI. The Pirates’ darknet will not amount to “much change” for content owners because it is still possible to identify major uploaders on Relakks’ ISP, Labs2, and then follow standard notice and take-down procedures, Martensson said. In addition, Labs2 clearly notifies subscribers that it will cooperate with police in cases of intellectual property infringement. And, while the anti-copyright forces are skilled at stirring up discussion online, it is not at all clear how many members the Pirates have, in Sweden or elsewhere, he said. “There are already lots of ways that people exchange material that the copyright industries can’t see,” said Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) Staff Technologist Peter Eckersley. Large numbers of files get copied via the “sneakernet” as people exchange burned CDs and hard disks full of music, or copy files over local networks. Software tools such as Freenet and Tor (which is supported in part by EFF) hide users’ identities, and are doubtless used by file-sharers, he said. The Pirate Party darknet is “just a continuation of existing trends,” Eckersley said. “It’s hard to see that a few more untraceable file-sharers would make that much difference” to the recording industry, which, despite its “barrage” of lawsuits against P2P users, has hardly made a dent on file-swapping. 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