Sweden Cracks Down on File Sharers

STOCKHOLM, Sweden - In an attempt to end online piracy, Swedish courts soon will have the power to force the country's Internet providers to pass on suspected file sharers' IP information.

IP addresses make it possible to track file sharers via their computers.

"We need to ... stand up for musicians, authors, filmmakers and all other copyright owners so that they have the right to their own material," Justice Minister Beatrice Ask and Culture Minister Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth wrote in an opinion article published in the Svenska Dagbladet.

According to Ask and Liljeroth, the proposal is set to move forward this spring.

"Courts ... shall be able to demand an Internet provider to give the copyright owner information about who had a certain IP address when it was used for infringement on the Internet," they wrote.

Sweden has long been hailed as a peer-to-peer refuge for hosting sites such as The Pirate Bay, which claims to have 10-15 million users who share copyrighted content.

Four Swedish men were indicted in January on charges of managing The Pirate Bay and thus helping others break Swedish copyright law.

Plaintiffs in that case include Warner Bros. Entertainment, MGM Pictures, Colombia Pictures Industries, 20th Century Fox Films, Sony BMG, Universal and EMI. They had until Feb. 29 to file claims for damages.

Christer Kinch, a spokesman for the Swedish Internet provider Com Hem, said his company is pleased that online copyright infringement would be treated as a court matter so that Internet providers do not have to "act [as] police."

"It's good in the way that we don't have to judge whether an Internet activity is legal or illegal," he said.

However, Sweden's Pirate Party, which received 0.6 percent of the votes in the 2006 elections and lobbies for an open-information society, called the move a "sanctioned blackmailing operation," saying it was a major intrusion into people's right to privacy.