Jesper of Waffle Software writes on a directive (the IPRED EU directive) written into Swedish law recently that gives ‘rights holders’, provided that they can display ‘cursory evidence’, powers well above those of any governmental agency. Paraphrasing from Jesper’s comments, if Big Content suspects you of having involvement in copyright infringement activities (downloading from BitTorrent, etc.), they can:
- Start a private criminal investigation against you
- Force your ISP to release your personal information (although there’s no guarantee that an IP address associated with the activities in question directly relates to your activity)
- Freeze your bank account and seize your home (allowing them to search the premises)
- Threaten you with court action unless you pay a tens-of-thousand-USD fine
- Take you to court “where you’ll have to prove your innocence without a lawyer by your side since you can’t afford one, because they froze your bank account”
- Collect their enormous damages, and charge you for the legal fees
Jesper outlines some specific nasties about the IPRED EU directive, but essentially we’re at least looking at a breach of “several human rights, including the rights to privacy and due process”. We’ve had some pretty nasty laws thrust upon us in the name of Big Content recently, but this one is absolutely insane. How far are governments going to go with this? I’m reminded of the Mars series by Kim Stanley Robinson, set in the future, where countries and governments are more-or-less irrelevant, and the real powers are the big ‘multinationals’, immense international corporations who have sweeping powers, including their own militaries.
If this law actually remains in place, and is used, it will be very interesting to see what happens. As my partner Katherine commented, surely a citizen looking down the barrel of this baby can take the matter to the EU, citing human rights infringement – assuming Sweden has signed a human rights convention.