A few years ago, I was in Norway for Nordic Music Week and got to meet with a number of people from all sides of the music industry there. It was very interesting to see how many of them were adapting to the changing environment. It was quite encouraging to see many were learning how to adapt and change with the times, embracing the internet to the fullest extent. Of course, one thing I noticed while there was that the major labels were entirely absent. Instead of spending time with the folks who are actually innovating and adapting it appears that they were, instead, doing what they do best: lobbying for incredibly overreaching legislation that wipes out all sorts of rights as soon as someone screams "copyright infringement." The Norwegian Parliament has now approved some legislation for copyright reform which is a major step in the wrong direction.
TorrentFreak has a good summary of what's in the law and its current status
(almost certainly to be approved shortly). It has the standard "completely shut down anything and everything and block access if it's seen as a "pirate" site" bit that was so controversial under the SOPA proposal in the US:
...rightsholders may apply to the courts to have ISPs “prevent or impede access” to sites that have “extensively made available material that clearly violates copyrights.”
Website owners will be named as opposing parties in such procedures but if the owner of the site is unknown or has an unknown address “..the case can be decided without the person concerned being given an opportunity to comment.”
Think about both of those provisions for half a second and you realize how troubling they are. Lots of "legal" services also are used to infringe "extensively" on copyrights, but we don't kill them off because of that. As we've noted, nearly every important technological innovation that has helped the entertainment industry started out as something that was used almost exclusively for infringing uses -- mainly because the entertainment industry refused to adapt. Radio, cable TV, the VCR, the DVR the MP3 player, YouTube etc. Under a law like this, all of those would have been effectively outlawed.
In fact, think about the incentives here: this bill gives the entertainment industry incentive NOT to adapt and change with the times
. The more it offers legitimate and authorized content, the harder it will be for them to shut down these sites. That's ridiculous. What kind of government would pass a law that effectively tells the entertainment industry not to embrace innovation? Apparently, Norway's.
And do we really need to even bring up what happens when no adversarial hearing happens where a site owner is allowed to present their side of the story? This law will lead to blocking access to tons of sites, many of which probably will have substantial non-infringing uses -- including many that are helpful to those who embrace them.
Oh, and it gets worse. Because under this law, if you scream copyright infringement loud enough, privacy laws go out the window for the public. Because, you know, "piracy!!!!!!" trumps privacy:
In dealing with end-users of unauthorized material (i.e the general public) the amendments are designed to make it easier for rightsholders to pursue individuals without falling foul of Norway’s data protection laws. Once passed, the new legislation will exempt personal data from the Personal Data Act when processing of such data is necessary for the pursuit of a legal claim.
While there are a few privacy safeguards in place, it seems like this law gets it backwards. Rather than exempting such data from the Personal Data Act with a few protections, why not create a clear test that needs to be met before any personal data could be revealed. At the very least, this should include clear and compelling evidence of actual harmful infringement by the individual, as well as the opportunity for the anonymous individual to mount a defense/response prior to being revealed. Somehow, I doubt that will happen.
Of course, what this really shows is that, even if SOPA was defeated in the US, the industry is still hard at work getting similar laws approved around the globe. Just wait until a little ways down the road where an attempt is made to "harmonize" various laws to try to force the US to match such laws in other places.