Why numbers don't mean much – file sharing in Sweden

Presentation is everything. Shame that the truth may interupt an otherwise nice story. The Guardian was not alone among international media commenting on the implementation of IPRED (Directive on the enforcement of intellectual property rights) in Sweden. The article entitled Swedish internet use plummets after filesharing curb introduced began:

Internet traffic in Sweden – previously a hotbed of illicit filesharing – has fallen dramatically following the introduction of a law banning online piracy.

Lets begin with some of the obvious errors. The “hotbed of illicit filesharing” is a strange thing to call Sweden. We have a high Internet/broadband penetration and the Pirate Bay was launched and maintained by Swedes but there is no way that a county with 9 million inhabitants could be at the top of the file sharing list?

The fact that TPB was launched in Sweden does not mean that its users are Swedish or in Sweden – this is basic stuff – so did the writer want to increase the sensationalism in the article or doesn’t he understand how the Internet works? Check out this map of TPB users around the world.

TPB Tracker Geo Statistics
The statistics is now based on unique users connected per minute! Should provide alot more accurate data.
Keep in mind that a torrent client usually only connects to the tracker once every 15-20 minutes.

The next problem is that the measurements of the 30-50% drop in traffic (depending upon who you read) seems to be that the measurements where taken from a much too small sample and the drop mirrors a similar drop on the measured servers occurring at the same time last year (Sources in Swedish here).

Yes, there are file sharers in Sweden and yes one of the most popular torrent trackers was founded in Sweden. But the files are uploaded and downloaded from all locations across the world and a large dip in traffic may mean a number of things. Having said that there is no doubt that a number of users turned of their file sharing when IPRED entered into force – but only to begin searching for anonymity tools. It is extremely likely that the users who stopped file sharing will return since there is still no viable legal alternative.

Unintended but not unexpected

The recent regulations in Sweden created the Pirate Party. The even more recent controversies with FRA (massive surveillance legislation) and ipred (strengthening copyright holders rights) and the Pirate Bay trial have driven the new parties marketing for them. Yesterday the party passed the 10 000 member level.

The Pirate Party is now larger than both the established Left Party and the Environmental Party making it the sixth largest party (counted in members) in Sweden. Swedish wikipedia has a table of party members here.

That the implementation of strickter internet regulation would increase the popularity of the Pirate Party should hardly be surprising. It is possible that few politicians in other parties were aware of the amount of popular anger was brewing under the surface and how this was organised and created into a more organised protest movement. In this way the growth of the Pirate Party is definately unintended but not unexpected.

Sweden voted yes to Ipred

At four pm today, following a long debate in parliament the IPRED legislation (based on the European Union’s Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Directive (IPRED)) went through. Those in favor claim that the law is necessary to protect the rights of copyright holders by allowing them to demand file-sharers identification data from Internet service providers.

The opponents of the law (in parliament these are the Left and Green Parties) argue that the law is an unfair balance which gives the copyright holders too much power and is not enough to protect users privacy. In addition there is a great concern that the legislation will be abused.