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How many suicides, illegal payments, and ruined lives will it take?

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I'd like to help you with a few facts about Denmark where antipirates have been able to get the names and addresses of ISP account holders for several years.

What we've witnessed has been bad. Several million have been paid by thousands of ordinary citizens in order to avoid legal penalties. And there's been at least one suicide.

The suicide took place in 2001 when the Danish IFPI sued two teenagers as part of a campaign they called 'WE'LL SUE YOU ALL THE WAY TO HELL'. The suicide was never officially called a suicide but the 16yo was not sick and his friends testified he suffered from a deep depression as a result of his being sued by the IFPI for an amount he'd never be able to pay off in his lifetime. The IFPI got his identity from his ISP as the law permits. After the 'non-suicide' the antipirates reorganised and changed their strategy.

The new strategy was to find people who carried out non-commercial file sharing online, send them letters where they were informed the antipirates had proof (screen dumps) of their illegal activities and they were going to be sued for a lot of money (usually DKK 60,000-250,000 or $10,000-$45,000). But the lawsuit could be avoided if one signed a paper admitting copyright crime and agreed to pay half the money. Some of the letters were sent out right before holiday periods so the victims didn't have time to find legal help before the 'special offer' expired. In this way costly trials were avoided. And the antipirates didn't pursue matters anyway even if the victims refused to cooperate and pay.

They changed their strategy again in 2004. One of the problems was that people began to realise nothing would happen if they ignored the IFPI. So they started a couple of court cases to prove everybody wrong. At the same time they sent out a new and bigger batch of threatening letters - but this time demanding a bit less money (average ~$15,000).

And they won their cases. They won the first case because the defendant never turned up in court. They won the second case because the defendant pleaded guilty. Screen dumps were never used as evidence - not in any of the cases. Yet in letters the antipirates sent out to further victims they lied and said the screen dumps had been accepted as legal evidence.

I'm guessing this group of legal vultures have collected at least DKK $30-50 million ($5.4 million - $8.9 million) from thousands of Danes who've been afraid of having to pay more if things went to trial. (We don't have any exact figures because the IFPI are keeping them secret.) No artist has ever seen any of this money - it's all been made to disappear in the form of 'legal fees' and 'costs for technical consultations'.

Thankfully a few people were brave enough to follow through on the legal process. And now this past autumn we had a number of cases where it's been decided that screen dumps as a form of evidence are not enough to win a trial. Even if screen dumps are to be used the solicitors cannot prove that the owners of the Internet connections are the same people who've perpetrated the alleged copyright crime.

It took almost eight years, a suicide, and thousands of panicky Danes who paid millions they never needed to pay. But we finally have a legal precedent that states that one cannot determine who has committed a copyright crime with the sole help of an IP address.

Keep in mind that the Danish and Swedish laws are remarkably similar. If you don't want the same law in Sweden I'd like to ask: how many suicides, illegal payments, and ruined lives do you need before you too get your legal precedent?

 - Ole Husgaard

Translated from the Danish by Marie Andersson.

I just want to point out the Swedish law is almost a pure translation of the Danish one. That's how similar they are. And this behaviour by the IFPI and the antipirates and their local franchises can be seen in every country with similar legislation. There's nothing to indicate things will be different in Sweden. The politicians who want this law cannot claim they didn't know how things would turn out - they know exactly what they're getting us into.
 - Rickard Olsson

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