Are ISPs to Blame for Illegal Downloads?

Dennis Faas's picture

Who's to blame for illegal file-sharing? Although in the past the immediate response has been to blame the individual physically downloading a movie, album, or video game, that could be changing. The new culprit may just surprise you.

In some North American cities, a drunk driver isn't the only one fingered for wrong-doing. In many cases, the bar that got the perpetrator drunk is also found guilty of negligence, and can have its liquor license suspended for weeks, even months.

Now, that idea is creeping up on the world of technology. Although the Record Industry Association of America, or RIAA, has been picking on basement-dwelling downloaders for some time now, Swedish law may usher in a new target: the Internet Service Provider, or ISP. It's all a part of an official report from the Scandinavian country, calling on Internet providers to shoulder some of the weight brought on record labels and artists by copyright infringement.

Behind the report is appeals court judge Cecilia Renfors, who recently proposed "that Internet providers should be required to contribute to bringing all copyright infringement to an end". (Source:


Renfors believes ISPs hold the obligation to prevent crime. Although that kind of sentiment ushers in memories of a Seinfeld conclusion, Renfors believes copyright infringement is no comedy. Instead, she argues that although ISPs shouldn't have to actually hunt illegal downloaders, they should be required by law to take action, if so tipped off. (Source:

Thus, if a service provider knows of a criminal situation and neglects to take action, "the copyright holder can demand compensation from the Internet provider".

As you might expect, Swedish ISPs are not on board. CEO of provider Bredbandsbolaget Marcus Nylen put it bluntly, "It is a bad proposal, ineffective and wrong in principle, and I don't understand how it's supposed to work in practice". Enough said.

Ultimately, the spread of Renfor's plan will depend on the organizations, record labels, and artists who possess the resources to make things happen. Given the growing success rate of the RIAA in American courts, there's no underestimating their interest in a concept as powerful as this one.

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