Compliance or Obscurity? Online Anonymity as a Consequence of Fighting Unauthorised File-sharing

Stefan LarssonLund University
Måns SvenssonLund University


The European Union directive on Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement (IPRED) was implemented in Sweden on April 1, 2009, and was meant to be the enforcement needed to achieve increased compliance with intellectual property online, especially copyright. This, therefore, was the manifest function of the directive. The article empirically shows changes in levels of use of Online Anonymity Services (OAS) as a result of the implementation of IPRED in Sweden, as being a latent dysfunction of the implementation The data consists of two surveys of about 1,000 people between 15 and 25 years of age, where the first survey was conducted two months prior to the implementation of IPRED, and the second one seven months afterwards. This data is complemented with OAS statistics as well as Google search engine statistics in Sweden during 2009 on a selection of phrases related to online anonymity, revealing the link between encrypted anonymity fluctuations and copyright enforcement. The article suggests that a key to understand any relationship between IPRED and fluctuations in online anonymity can be found in the law’s relationship to social norms and levels of perceived legitimacy. The implementation of illegitimate laws is likely to spur dysfunctional (for the law) counter-measures. In the case of copyright enforcement and encryption technologies, the first seems to drive the other to some extent, affecting the balance of openness and anonymity on the Internet, possibly and at worst leading to that the enforcement of legislation that has a weak representation among social norms negatively affects the enforcement of legislation that has a strong representation among social norms.

Recommended Citation

Larsson, Stefan and Svensson, Måns (2010) “Compliance or Obscurity? Online Anonymity as a Consequence of Fighting Unauthorised File-sharing,” Policy & Internet: Vol. 2: Iss. 4, Article 4.
DOI: 10.2202/1944-2866.1044
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