Antipiracy law fallout: Swedish ISP won't store IP addresses of users

Tele2 says it will change storage procedures in wake of new law targeting illegal file-sharers

Tele2 AB, one of the largest Internet service providers in Sweden, said today that it has decided to stop storing the IP addresses of customers in the wake of the Swedish government's implementation of a law designed to make it easier for copyright holders to go after suspected illegal file-sharers.

The antipiracy law, which is based on the European Union's Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Directive (IPRED), went into effect on April 1. It enables copyright holders to seek court orders calling on ISPs to provide the IP addresses of computers allegedly used to download and share content without authorization. The information could then be used in civil lawsuits.

The law was written to effectively end anonymity for Swedish residents who engage in illegal file-sharing. Internet traffic in Sweden fell sharply after it took effect, with one company that manages Internet exchange points in the country reporting a nearly 50% drop in data transmission rates.

Now, though, Tele2 said that as a result of demands from customers, it plans to change its data-storage routines and no longer save information about IP addresses. The Stockholm-based company added that it has studied the antipiracy legislation and concluded that it has no legal obligation to store the addresses.

"It's good that you've got an operator that is willing to defend the rights of the users and is willing to respect that we do have rights," said Monica Horten, a U.K.-based Internet policy researcher and founder of a Web site called IPtegrity.com.

Via an ongoing reform of the EU's telecommunications laws, European network operators stand to get even more power than they have now, including the right to legally block Internet access for users, Horten noted.

As a result, she claimed, telecommunications carriers and ISPs now have an ethical duty to act responsibly towards their customers. Swedish ISPs such as Tele2 are setting an example that others should follow, Horten said.

Thus far, Tele2 is the largest ISP in Sweden that has come out publicly against storing IP addresses to facilitate the efforts of copyright holders to block illegal file-sharing. But it wasn't the first company to do so. Bahnhof AB, another ISP based in Stockholm, previously announced that it wouldn't keep IP addresses in its systems.

A recent survey conducted in Sweden found that 48% of the respondents were against the IPRED-based antipiracy law, compared with 32% who favored it. The survey also found a correlation between age, gender and people's views of the law. For example, 74% of men aged 15 to 29 said they opposed the measure, while only 27% of those over 65 said they disapproved.

The launch of the law was one of two major piracy-related developments in Sweden this month. On April 17, the four operators of The Pirate Bay, one of the most widely used BitTorrent trackers for downloads of music, movies and software, were found guilty in a Stockholm court of being accessories to crimes against copyright law.

The four were each sentenced to one year in prison and ordered to pay a total of about 30 million Swedish kronor ($3.6 million U.S.) in damages. They have since asked an appeals court in Sweden to order a retrial in the case.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

  
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