As US ISPs gear up to become the internet’s copyright cops from July, Denmark has put its plans for a 'three strikes' piracy policy on ice.
As in the US, Danish copyright lobbyists had pushed the government for a ‘graduated response’ mechanism. Otherwise known as ‘three strikes’, such mechanisms usually oblige ISPs to send customers three infringement notifications, followed by the threat of a substantial penalty of some kind.
France and New Zealand are among the countries that have adopted a three strikes plan. Under the New Zealand initiative, introduced last year, the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (RIANZ) monitors suspect infringers, who are then sent notifications by their ISP. After receiving three of the notices, the individual faces court and a potential NZ$15,000 In France’s version, infringers could see their internet connection suspended. Around 165 users in France are currently facing suspension two years after it introduced its three strikes policy. Denmark's three strikes proposals, however, has been put on hold in favour of a new framework to tackle piracy, introduced by the Denmark's Ministry of Culture on Wednesday.
The framework isn’t abandoning the graduated response option altogether, and it may be adopted if the current plan doesn't prove effective. Denmark is looking to introduce ‘contractually enforced agreements’ between rights holders and content hosting sites to tackle the distribution of infringing material. Akin to ‘safe harbour’ arrangements for US web companies like Google, those Danish websites who have signed the agreements will be able to remove any infringing material without suffering a penalty for having hosted it.
Such agreements are probably not much of a carrot for the site operators, but there will be a stick to accompany it: rights holders will only need a court order for one ISP to block a website to ensure that all of the country's service providers will have to do likewise.
Meanwhile, the framework will see rights holders obliged to shoulder the burden of heckling suspected file sharers themselves, by hitting forums to persuade individuals that piracy is wrong and push them to use legal downloading services instead. Although it’s not entirely clear how they intend on reaching such individuals, the policy document says they will use ‘legal search functions’ to identify file sharers and find the contact information site users have provided in order to reach them.
The last major component of Denmark’s effort focuses on the unsecured home router. ISPs have agreed to make sure Wi-Fi equipment “comes with unique passwords or some form of encryption”.
It’s not clear how this would have any immediate impact on piracy, but seems aimed at shoring up failed attempts to tie acts of infringement to an account holder based on the infringement being associated with a particular IP address. In the case of unsecured connections, any number of individual beyond the account holder, even passers-by, could have used the connection.
That scenario was tested in a Finnish district court recently: it ruled against a claim by the Finnish Anti-Piracy Centre that a particular individual could be held responsible for a copyright infringement on the grounds her network was not password secured.