Sunday

Piracy, Sleepless nights and yet More Internet Censorship..this Time in Denmark

Does piracy of films, music and software keep you awake at night?  Do you worry that the internet is being used to share and download copyrighted material ?  Nope, no nor did I but something that Johan Schlüter has done makes me think again.

Who is Mr Schlüter and why has he suddenly made me concerned about the profits of the music and film industry.   Well he's a lawyer, in fact he's the lead attorney of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry’s (IFPI) and he's recently won a rather worrying case in Denmark.

It's actually quite a long running case and an escalation of an earlier ruling which stated that an ISP was assisting in copyright infringement by allowing access to such a site as Pirate's Bay.   Now just in case you don't know The Pirates bay is one of the most high profile of Torrent sites.  These sites contain files which allow you to download  files from other users via Peer to Peer technology (P2P).   So they don't actually store any of these films or music files they just facilitate the downloads from other users who share the files with each other.  Certainly there are loads of torrents for ripped off movies and albums, but also a lot of legitimate file sharing too.

Anyway the problem with this case is that it holds the ISP responsible for copyright infringement because they are allowing their users to visit a site which stores these torrent files.   This is very scary and on quite a few levels - but here's some of my worries -
  • You are forcing the ISPs to become the policemen of the internet - do you want your ISP to decide what you can or cannot view on the internet?  No, nor do they.
  • This ruling completely ignores the rights of the individual in favor of protecting copyright of some music company.  Is freedom of speech and expression less important than corporate profits - it seems so.
  • Who else will decide to create a list of things you can't see on the internet - there are thousands of these lists being compiled all across the world.
  • Who decides what is legal and what isn't legal, in this case if I put a link to a torrent file on this web page -  I'm doing exactly the same as Pirates Bay so a Danish ISP would be best advised to block my blog.
It's just the start, someone, somewhere can find a reason to block just about anything.  Whether on moral, religious, legal or political grounds it's just about asking the right group.  That's even before you start creating these dangerous precedents - "well we blocked that, so we'd better block those just in case".  You could hardly blame the poor ISPs for blocking loads of stuff just to make sure, why should they risk costly legal battles to allow one web site through which had the odd page which linked to somewhere where you could download a hooky film.


Remember this is happening in Denmark, a country that has a pretty good reputation for protecting the rights of the individual and free speech.  But they're actually getting worse.  In fact the Danish Government passed a law earlier this year (2010) which allowed the tax authorities to notify the ISPs of unauthorised gambling sites - which  the ISPs are then expected to block.


So that means even the tax man can decide where you can't visit online as well, the Danes don't even find out  which these sites are.  But there's more according to Global Voices

Earlier in 2010 the Socialist Peoples’ Party proposed criminalizing surfing on “terror related web sites” and the Danish Peoples’ Party has twice proposed banning 
psychedlica.dk a website dedicated to sharing information about drugs.
It's a very slippery slope, as you can see in one of the countries who defend free speech, home of Freetown Christiania (although when I went there - didn't seem to be many people at home) there's already increasing censorship.   So just from the few examples here,  in Denmark we have the following groups potentially filtering your internet feed without your knowledge.
  • The Movie Industry
  • The Music Industry
  • Your ISP
  • The Government
  • The Tax Authorities
  • The Socialist Peoples Party
It's not good is it !!

Remember this is internet filtering happening in Copenhagen not Beijing!

That's of course completely ignoring the fact that these ISP filtering techniques are usually pretty ineffective anyway, anyone who wants to bypass them can usually figure it out.  There are numerous anonymous surfing techniques using proxies that easily thwart these filters, but then you only block certain users - is that fair?

So at number 22 Mermaid Avenue, Copenhagen - 56 year old Philosophy professor Hans Jensen who has an IQ of 170 but is not that good with computers has his internet feed filtered by  the Socialist Peoples Party for his own good.  Whilst next door spotty 19 year old computer geek - Mark Christensen can surf whatever the the hell he likes because he happens to know how to use anonymous proxies and stuff like that.


Fair ? Yeah right........

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