Are Swedish Police Violating Copyright Law In Creating Shoe Database?

from the if-the-shoe-fits dept

Sweden has certainly been an interesting country to watch on copyright issues. Home of The Pirate Bay, the original Pirate Party, and an awful lot of people who seem to feel pretty strongly that copyright law is out of control, there are still plenty of Swedes who feel the opposite way and support stronger copyright law. It often appears that law enforcement in Sweden is strongly aligned with those interests, working hard to prosecute The Pirate Bay and having staff members that seem to jump back and forth between the police department and the entertainment industry.

So, it’s a bit amusing to find out that the Swedish National Police may be in a bit of hot water themselves after building a national “shoe database” (Google translation from the original Swedish) for use in tracking what kinds of shoes make what kinds of tracks. But how did they build the database? They just went online and downloaded pictures from various websites.

And it turns out that might not be legal.

The police claim that the law lets them ignore copyright in solving crimes, but an intellectual property professor quoted in the article notes that such an exemption only applies in the direct police investigation of a specific crime — not for the sake of building up a general database. The professor suggests that this appears to be a clear violation of Swedish copyright laws.

While I do think it’s silly that this should be considered infringement (a database of shoe treads? really?), I do find it amusing when organizations that always promote themselves as strongly pro-copyright discover how that can come back to bite them.

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Comments on “Are Swedish Police Violating Copyright Law In Creating Shoe Database?”

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F. says:

The police also needs knowledge like from dictionaries. But the downloaded CD version of the Oxford doesn’t run on our system. No problem, download another Windows. That’s okay, we have an exemption. Gotta be able to understand what our investigated criminals are saying after all. And who knows if some crime wasn’t inspired by the plot of a novel? We should copy them all into our database for keyword searches.

Or maybe the hostage in this video tried to give us an important hint coded into an obscure movie quote. How should we know? What if a victim says the robber looked exactly like the villain from that movie, how are we supposed to create a proper wanted photo? Can’t do biometric searches if we don’t download those movies.

And porn! All of it. For investigative purposes only, of course. Gotta put those beauty spots in our database, we might recognize someone.

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