Trust Sweden to find a way for file-sharers to download without worries

Even young pirates need insurance.
Even young pirates need insurance.
Image: AP Photo/Bernat Armangue
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The home of the Pirate Bay, a notorious file-sharing website, just gave its citizens another way to download movies with little expense and without (too much) fear of the law.

Ung Pirat, the youth wing of the Swedish Pirate Party, last weekend launched K-Kassan (the “k” stands for kopiering, or “copying”, and kassan means fund). Essentially, it’s prosecution insurance. Members pay an annual fee of 249 Swedish krona ($40) and in return the fund promises to cover any fines imposed on those found guilty of illegally downloading copyright material. Sweden does not send file-sharers to prison but fines can be hefty, usually starting at 10,000 krona. Ten people were fined in 2012 and four already this year.

K-Kassan claims not to promote illegal activity. Its website keeps the language deliberately vague (link in Swedish), arguing that rules around file-sharing tend to be labyrinthine. Plus, the fund does not cover people caught distributing files for commercial benefit, says Isak Gerson, who runs the fund on behalf of Sharing is Caring, a non-profit set up to administer K-Kassan.

“You can only get your fines refunded if you file-share without a profit incentive,” Gerson tells Quartz. “If you try to make money off it, you are not covered by our system.”

Since its launch last weekend, the fund has already attracted a substantial number of members, says Gerson, though he declined to give a precise figure.

Though the concept might seem alien to outsiders, K-Kassan’s model has its roots in similar funds that Swedes have set up to cover other penalties for things antithetical to their way of life. Take paying for public transport, for instance. Since 2001, Planka-Kassan has protected people caught on public transport without tickets (“planka” is Swedish for fare-dodging). Founded in Stockholm, it soon spread to other cities, including Gothenburg and Östergötland. The model is not always successful, however; a one-time -kassan set up for “insurance against speeding fines” appears now to be defunct (link in Swedish).

Gerson cites Planka-Kassan as an inspiration for Ung Pirat’s new file-sharing fund. And the fact that it is still running was enough to convince him that authorities would be similarly powerless against K-Kassan.