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File sharing damages insurer plans international expansion

Start-up a protest against Swedish copyright laws

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The Swedish company which offers insurance against file sharing law suits will expand into other Scandinavian countries.

Founder and owner Magnus Brath told OUT-LAW that "very similar" legal regimes in Denmark and Norway make a move likely.

"There are of course different laws in different countries but it seems like we should be able to expand into the Nordic countries at least in the not too distant future," Brath said. "It's a very small company at the moment and we don't have the resources to get out into Europe fast, but we're looking into it."

The company, Tankafritt, was launched this week and Brath is currently the owner and sole employee. It operates on a membership basis. "Our customers pay us 140 which is about £10 and they get to be a member for a year and then if they get sued for file sharing we will pay their fines if they get any," said Brath. "We should be able to pay every fine in the future."

Brath said a legal precedent for such a scheme already exists and that schemes exist to pay speeding ticket fines in Sweden.

The company has been set up as a reaction and protest to recent changes in Swedish copyright law. Sweden used to have relatively lax copyright laws but they were tightened last summer. Though uploading copyrighted material had always been against the law, downloading such material was only made an offence for the first time last summer.

"The file sharing laws are quite recent in Sweden and there's been a lot of debating and politics around this issue," said Brath. "We wanted to make a statement to say that we don't like the new laws and we want to change back to the way they used to be."

Brath would not reveal how many members had joined the scheme in its first week, saying that the secrecy of the list was paramount. He did say he was confident that the scheme could meet the cost of any future payouts.

Such a scheme would be unlikely to be legal in the UK, according to the Association of British Insurers. A spokeswoman said that English common law would not uphold a contract concerning illegal activity.

The cause of file sharers is a celebrated one in Sweden, where there is a political party devoted to the relaxation of intellectual property controls. A recent raid on server farms hosting the Pirate Bay site caused controversy, particularly since the raid appeared to have taken legal businesses offline as well as the Pirate Bay. Pirate Bay insists their site, which hosts only links to copyrighted material, is legal.

As well as the costs of any finding against a member, Brath is also offering each prosecuted member a t-shirt. "Translated, it reads: I got convicted for file sharing and all I got was this lousy t-shirt," he said.

Meanwhile, file sharing news site Slyck.com has used prosecution data to calculate that the chances of being sued by industry body the Recording Industry Association of America for file sharing are 1,840 to one, which are longer odds than dying from an intentional or non intentional injury in the US, the site reported.

See: www.tankafritt.nu

Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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