Swedish antipiracy law: Traffic down, ISP rebels

Internet traffic dropped by almost half after a new antipiracy law went into effect in Sweden, but a loophole could take the teeth out of the law.

Immediately following the enactment of a new Swedish antipiracy law on April 1 , Internet traffic in Sweden plummeted--and it has yet to return to prior levels.

According to Netnod, an organization that measures Internet traffic on access points between Swedish and international networks, traffic went down from average data speeds of about 160 gigabits per second to about 90Gbps and has remained so since the day the new law went into effect.

On April 1, in the middle of week 14, the new antipiracy law took effect in Sweden. Netnod

Netnod has declined to make the connection between the new antipiracy law and the traffic drop since it only measures traffic without identifying what sort of activity is behind the numbers. Other large Internet service providers won't release their numbers.

But Jon Karlung, CEO of Bahnhof , a comparatively small, outspoken broadband operator that has expressed opposition to the new antipiracy law, explains what it has seen.

"Almost half the Internet is gone," Karlung told CNET News over the telephone from Sweden. "Likely, it is the torrent traffic that has declined, but I cannot say whether this traffic is legal or illegal."

The so-called IPRED originated from the European Union's "International Property Rights Enforcement Directive." IPRED stipulates that property rights holders can take their grievances to a court, which will examine the evidence and decide whether the name of a holder of an IP address will be released.

The guilty verdict in the high-profile Pirate Bay trial , announced earlier Friday, was not affected by IPRED, since only file sharing done after April 1 is being affected by the new law. But copyright holders have already turned to the new law in an attempt to stop file sharers.

On the law's first day, five Swedish audio book publishers went after an alleged illegal file sharer in court, in hopes of revealing the identity of the person behind a particular IP address.

And two days after the law came into force, two men were arrested, allegedly for sharing copyrighted files and administering a "rip box," which removes copy protection on purchased films and music. International police were involved in the arrests.

Jan Karling, CEO of ISP Bahnhof will not store traffic data of alleged pirates. Bahnhof

But now Bahnhof says it won't release the names connected to IP addresses, since its understanding of an earlier law based on another EU directive is that ISPs must erase traffic data for the sake of the subscribers' integrity.

"Our ambition is not to store any traffic data," Karlung said, adding that as a consequence, "Bahnhof cannot provide information on alleged piracy to courts, since we do not have the information stored. Thus IPRED becomes effectless."

Bahnhof's interpretation of the earlier law gets support from the Swedish Post and Telecom Agency, a regulatory body that's akin to the Federal Communications Commission in the U.S.

"There is no general obligation to store this kind of data for all subscribers," PTS attorney Peder Cristvall told the magazine Computer Sweden.

Bahnhof says it's opposing the new antipiracy law since it stops Internet innovation and development, naming Swedish companies MySQL Skype , and Spotify as examples of companies whose success has benefitted from Sweden's extensive file-sharing culture.

Instead, Bahnhof says copyright holders must develop business models and Internet tools that allow subscribers to share files legally.

Karlung says that in the short term Bahnhof's profits will rise with the IPRED law due to lower bandwidth costs, but in the long term the sales of fast Internet connections used for file sharing could decline.

"It is possible that we and other ISPs could sell fewer fast connections, but that won't affect our profits," Karlung said.

But just to make things a bit more complicated, the Swedish government is expected to propose a new data storage law based on a third EU directive in June. This law could force Bahnhof to store and share its data in the future anyway, much to Karlung's disappointment.

"It is this Orwellian nightmare state that is developing, where no one sees the dynamic of the Internet," a sighing Karlung says from the other side of the Atlantic.

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About the author

    Erik Palm, a business reporter for Swedish national television, is joining CNET News as a spring 2009 fellow with Stanford University's Innovation Journalism program. When he's not working, he enjoys kayaking and exploring California's hiking trails. E-mail Erik.

     

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