It’s been good and bad news for record labels, film companies, music publishers and other content owners in April as legislators in two European countries finally began to tackle the problem of internet piracy and peer-2-peer file swapping. First up French lawmakers moved a step closer to passing a “three strikes” law under which people who repeatedly pirate music, movies or TV shows could have their Internet connections cut off for up to year. On the 2nd April the National Assembly voted in favor of key elements of the law on April 2nd but whilst The Senate have passed the President Sarkozy supported Creation and Internet law, the French initiative stalled at the last hurdle when the National Assembly then failed to pass the legislation on the 9th April. Despite this setback it is expected the bill to pass possibly as early as April 29th and possibly in an amended form: When passed, France would be the first in the world to cut off Internet access to people accused of copyright violations although consumer groups and human rights activists oppose the move: some consumer groups had warned that the wrong people might be punished – should hackers hijack their computers’ identity, and that the scheme amounted to state surveillance, The socialist parliamentarian Patrick Bloche said the bill was “dangerous, useless, inefficient, and very risky for us citizens” and one commentator said that cutting off the internet was tantamount to a “social death sentence”. In New Zealand consumer groups forced a similar legislative move to be delayed.
Perhaps more significantly, Sweden’s Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Directive (IPRED) law went into effect at the beginning of April and the immediate and quite interesting result was a substantial reduction in the amount of internet traffic in the country – estimated at a thirty three percent drop – with some commentators putting the figure at nearly forty percent, The IPRED law forces ISPs to reveal the names of people attached to IP addresses suspected of sharing copyrighted music, movies, other files without permission. The startling drop in internet traffic (which may only be temporary as users discover how to avoid detection by copyright owners) was followed two days later by the news that two 29-year-old Swedes from Skövde were arrested and had their computers were seized as part of Europol’s “Operation Carbonite”, an international anti-piracy initiative reportedly involving agencies from Belgium, The Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States and then followed by news from one online retailer that legal download sales had followed. There again, new research from the Norwegian School of Management has shown that people who illegally download are far more likely to be big spenders when it comes to music. The findings are from a survey of 1900 fans in Norway over 15 years old which examined download habits – both illegally downloaded, and, by checking their accounts, money spent with legitimate paid for digital music providers and CDs bought. The research finds a correlation, generally speaking, and that those who download more tracks illegally also bought more music.