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Swedish Police Shoe Database May Tread On Copyright 156

Posted by timothy
from the heel-to-toe-heel-to-toe dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Swedish police, who have been instrumental in various raids against file-sharing sites, may have a bit of a piracy problem on their own hands. It seems they wanted to put together a database of shoe print information for matching crime scene shoe prints to particular shoe types. To do so, they used images found online, and some Swedish copyright experts have noted that this appears to violate Swedish copyright law. The police claim there's an exception for police investigations, but people (and some shoe companies) are pointing out that creating a database isn't about an investigation."
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Swedish Police Shoe Database May Tread On Copyright

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  • Sure it is! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Chris Burke (6130) on Thursday September 09, 2010 @07:02PM (#33528596) Homepage

    The investigations are just hypothetical and in the future!

    Also, the NSA needs to spy on my phone conversations in case I ever become a terrorist. Which, I have to admit, is pretty good foresight on their part.

    • by mirix (1649853)

      As much as I agree with your intent, this is a lot more like having phone tapping equipment available, in the case that it is required, rather than actively tapping you.

      The whole database idea seems sort of goofy to me though, can't see it being terribly effective. (how many people wear adidas superstars?)

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        Or now know to change shoes after committing a crime. Just switch in a crowded place and dump them in the trash at same crowded public place. Like stolen cars used for crime, remember to switch crime-shoes early and often.

        • Re:Sure it is! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by dreampod (1093343) on Thursday September 09, 2010 @07:25PM (#33528846)

          Amongst professional criminals I'm sure that this sort of thing is common but when dealing with crimes of passion or low value crimes it becomes much more useful. After all when you own only a pair or two of shoes of a style and become a suspect, having just replaced them with brand new shoes is very suspicious. As well for something like a convenience store robbery it starts to make it even more financially worthless when you steal $50 and have to replace a $30 pair of shoes.

          • by h4rr4r (612664)

            Go to the local goodwill. These places also prefer cash, which is a big advantage to those who are in that field of work.

            • Slashdot: News For Nerds, Advice For Criminals. :-D

            • Go to the local goodwill. These places also prefer cash, which is a big advantage to those who are in that field of work.

              ... or do like me and buy 3-5 pairs of shoes when they're on sale (like they always are somewhere) when you buy new ones.. then rotate through them so they wear more-or-less evenly

          • by Sulphur (1548251)

            Be on the lookout for person of interest in stolen Superstar tennis shoes.

          • by SeaFox (739806)

            After all when you own only a pair or two of shoes of a style and become a suspect, having just replaced them with brand new shoes is very suspicious.

            You could buy the new shows (cheap ones) before the crime, wear them while committing it, and then get rid of them. You get to keep your old comfy shoes and the police will be thrown off on a false trail!

            • again this assumes you planned the crime beforehand

            • by delinear (991444)
              You can always think up ways to trick the system, but systems such as this are intended to catch out casual or amateur criminals, or to aid in compiling a reconstruction which may prompt a witness to come forward (if they put together a photo-fit they always want it to be as accurate as possible, and yes that can be down to which individual brand of trainers a criminal wore).
        • by BluBrick (1924)

          Or now know to change shoes after committing a crime. Just switch in a crowded place and dump them in the trash at same crowded public place. Like stolen cars used for crime, remember to switch crime-shoes early and often.

          And leave your DNA in shoes that match tracks at the crime scene? Might as well write a signed confession.

        • by westlake (615356)

          Or know to change shoes after committing a crime. Just switch in a crowded place and dump them in the trash at same crowded public place.

          Dumpster-diving is part of the job.

          The need to ditch something quickly limits your options.

          If someone sees you carrying an extra pair of shoes at seven o'clock - and your bag is empty at seven-thirty - you have something to explain.

          The geek shouldn't turn his mind to crime. He over-complicates things.

          • Buy a pair of shoes, glue the tread from a different pair of shoes onto the bottom. Police find a shoe print and start looking for the addidas shoe of the tread pattern while you are wearing Nike trainers. No need to dump the shoes, no need to carry a spare pair which would look suspicous.

            The only way you would be caught would be if you are stopped and the tread patterns checked directly which would mean the police already have a reason to suspect you. I'm obviously a criminal master mind, next I will hold

        • Or now know to change shoes after committing a crime. Just switch in a crowded place and dump them in the trash at same crowded public place. Like stolen cars used for crime, remember to switch crime-shoes early and often.

          Even with such databases being used *ALL THE DAMN TIME* in shows like CSI... folks still do stupid things when committing crimes.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Chris Burke (6130)

        As much as I agree with your intent, this is a lot more like having phone tapping equipment available, in the case that it is required, rather than actively tapping you.

        Er, well, neither really applies. They are actually collecting data, but it's data regarding a type of forensics, not data related to any individuals. It's more like figuring out how one might go about tapping phones.

        It's really not a civil liberties issue like warrant-less phone tapping is. I was just riffing on the idea of claiming you

        • Re:Sure it is! (Score:4, Insightful)

          by shaitand (626655) on Thursday September 09, 2010 @07:58PM (#33529178) Journal

          As much as I oppose anything that strengthens the police state (any police state really) I feel compelled to point something out. Shoeprints being part of a future police investigation is about as hypothetical as my claim that should I throw a rock in the air it will fall back down.

          The volume of previous observations that can be found by searching through police files where shoe prints were in evidence is pretty substantial.

          • by Quothz (683368)

            Shoeprints being part of a future police investigation is about as hypothetical as my claim that should I throw a rock in the air it will fall back down.

            I think you're misunderstanding the point. Jurisprudence does not, in general, recognize a future hypothetical case as being equal to a current actual case, regardless of the likelihood (the exception, it seems, being American 9th Circuit lawsuits against future John Doe copyright violators, but that's not jurisprudence so much as an unholy cross between corruption, politics, and insanity). To permit otherwise would be akin to allowing police to use investigative powers for any imaginary future purpose, and

            • by shaitand (626655)

              I don't know enough about Judicial precedent in Sweden to argue the point to be honest.

              Here in the US courts have an odd habit of throwing out usual practice and technicalities if they don't pass the smell test. If investigations are exempt from copyright restrictions and the supposedly has a likelihood of being used entirely for investigations on par with likelihood of the existence of gravity a judge is likely to toss any argument saying that likelihood is hypothetical out as nonsense. Especially for the

            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by retchdog (1319261)

              Jurisprudence does ... in general ... recognize a future hypothetical case ... as ... lawsuits against ... copyright violators ... [A]n unholy cross between corruption, politics, and insanity ... permit... police to use ... powers for any ... purpose.

              The correct answer is ... just ... a ... person ... armed... can solve the problem.

            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              For me, the issue here is the use of copyright law to stop this. I don't see why the police would have to get a copyright exemption for the creation of a database, as they are not planning to make or sell shoes with similar patterns.

              As far as I can see it, this is research of an academic nature. Now, if people want to go after the police here in a civil liberties and person's rights issue - and I don't think there's an issue with these in this case anyway, because I don't see how the shoes you wear now, or

              • by Ihmhi (1206036)

                For me, the issue here is the use of copyright law to stop this. I don't see why the police would have to get a copyright exemption for the creation of a database, as they are not planning to make or sell shoes with similar patterns.

                I guess this will all hedge on whether or not the Swedish court system considers a photo of the sole of a shoe a derivative work.

              • It's not the copyright holder of the shoemaker which is being violated, it's the copyright holder of the photograph (admittedly, they are probably the same entity in reality).

                Either, making a copy of a copyrighted image is illegal or it isn't. The police, having being caught doing exactly what everyone else does on the internet and who would be at risk of legal action by a whole host of Swedish specific *AA organisations are trying to argue that they are excempt because the database will be used to investig

              • by delinear (991444)

                Would that mean people could enrol in a cinema course at their local college and then legitimately download and archive movies because they are "not planning to make or sell" infringing movies and can claim that it is "research of an academic nature"?

                This just highlights (and I suspect that's the purpose behind the claims) the extent to which overly restrictive copyright can stymie legitimate fair use. Twenty, or perhaps even ten years ago, nobody would have even considered this might fall foul of copyright

      • The whole database idea seems sort of goofy to me though, can't see it being terribly effective. (how many people wear adidas superstars?)
        Obviously , you haven't been watching CSI.
      • Re:Sure it is! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by h4rr4r (612664) on Thursday September 09, 2010 @07:29PM (#33528902)

        So you think the police can just steal phone tapping equipment? I do believe they have to buy it, like they would with these pictures. Either they are all for IP or not.

        • If they want the information to be accurate, they should go to the source and pay the price.

          However, they could certainly take the Google approach and find a way to collect the data from the public, taking pictures of shoes and asking what make/model they are.

          The problem with building a database based on web images is not so much the fact that they're running afoul of copyright--I'm sure I could find an attorney who would argue fair use rules or something along those lines, since they're not selling t
        • More to the point, consider the lengths police go to build databases of car parts and materials. What type of paint was used on what model of car? What type of glass. I would be surprised indeed if the police had to pay for this information. Most likely the manufacturers help them as a matter of mutual interest.

      • by nospam007 (722110) *

        "The whole database idea seems sort of goofy to me though, can't see it being terribly effective. (how many people wear adidas superstars?)"

        How does the police know it's that brand if they don't have a database?

        • by delinear (991444)
          This raises the point that often knowing which lines of enquiry not to pursue is important. If the type of shoe is worn by a significant number of people in the area, it's a waste of resources to send out officers to find out who has been buying said shoe, or to go door to door asking about this piece of evidence. If, on the other hand, it turns out the shoe is imported and quite rare it's probably worth throwing some resource at following up the lead. In most crimes, the police have to sift through a ton o
      • haven't you seen CSI... there really are detectives that "geeky" that they collect tire treads, foot prints, bugs, etc. just to have them handy.

        This is how they look like big shots... just like hackers sit out there and collect atari 2600 roms all day. Somebody has to build these on the off chance they might have only muddy prints to follow. In reality, most violent crimes have only a few suspects... most of the time for murders and such the perp is somebody that knows the vic... making the pool of "shoes"

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      Also, the NSA needs to spy on my phone conversations in case I ever become a terrorist. Which, I have to admit, is pretty good foresight on their part.

      So, you are going to become a terrorist then? Because, if it's good foresight, they're right.

      Stay put, agents are on their way.

      • With the ever increasing definition of the term, any one of us could one day wake up and be a terrorist without changing a single habit.

    • by sco08y (615665)

      The investigations are just hypothetical and in the future!

      But, really, what's wrong with a database of Swedish police shoes?

    • Also, the NSA needs to spy on my phone conversations in case I ever become a terrorist.

      We foresaw that you might possibly say that, so the system to do so is already in place and in use!

  • When making laws about restricting the use of information, make them as narrow as possible, and broaden as necessary.

  • While I couldn't comment about how Swedish law treats such things in the United States or Canada this would be protected if the shoe prints were gathered directly rather than using online photos. A compilation of facts and details regarding the pattern and arrangement of shoe treads is definitely safe territory protected by the fact it does not inhibit the market for the original goods (unless some shoe company really wants to argue that their major clients purchase them to avoid being identified by the po

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      It is probably the same. Taking pictures of shoes you bought or their impressions is very different from "pirating" images online for your personal gain.

      Hmm, perhaps I need to start selling treadless crime-shoes.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by bennomatic (691188)

        Hmm, perhaps I need to start selling treadless crime-shoes.

        Maybe you could get police departments to invest in them, since they'd be able to catch the perps as the slip-slide around corners during foot chases.

        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          Check out climbing shoes, with very soft tread you can get good grip out of what looks like a very smooth surface.

          I was thinking something like that.

    • by cptdondo (59460) on Thursday September 09, 2010 @07:27PM (#33528874) Journal

      I think you missed the point. The tread isn't the issue; the pictures are copyrighted by someone. You can't go on-line, scarf a whole bunch of pictures off the web, and then use them to conduct your business.

      I can't do that with images, music, or anything else, and neither can any other agency. Otherwise, I could just download all the music in the world, and claim that I am building a database for future use in identifying stolen music.

      Doesn't work that way.

      • by DurendalMac (736637) on Thursday September 09, 2010 @07:43PM (#33529040)
        I missed the part where police forensics are a business. Furthermore, these images aren't being tossed on their website. They're being used in an internal database. It's idiotic for people to whine about this. They're not claiming copyright or publicly using it to make money on their website. It's an internal database used solely (pun intended) for matching footprints to shoe types. I think that Swedish copyright law needs some serious work if that is somehow an issue.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by wiredlogic (135348)

          You've gotten used to the laissez faire form of copyright we all live with in the modern world where digital duplication is effortless and has no direct cost. A strict reading of copyright law indicates that any unauthorized copying outside the protections of fair use (excerpts, parody, etc.) is a violation even if you don't engage in distribution.

          This is why the AHRA was put in place in the US for the narrow scope of personal music copying. Essentially, enough Congresspeople got upset about the implication

        • by Artraze (600366) on Thursday September 09, 2010 @10:18PM (#33530012)

          And yet, if I download songs for my personal, decidedly private and not business use, I'm subject to damages of hundreds of dollars for each instance.

          The point isn't that this is _bad_, but if they're going to go around busting down doors because people are sharing copyrighted works for personal use, they shouldn't be violating copyright for their institutional use and pretending it's OK.

          • When was the last time someone tried to sell you a picture of a shoe?
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Kidbro (80868)

              While the market for pictures of shoes is smaller than that for music, it obviously exists. Otherwise these pictures wouldn't have been taken in the first place, and the police would not have wanted copies of them (that's the definition of a market, after all).

              Is there some magic clause somewhere which says that copyright infringement only becomes a crime if your estimated target audience exceeds a certain number?

              And for the record, I'm a Swedish resident. I think our police have done the morally right thin

            • by delinear (991444)
              The company where I work has previously had to buy stock photography of just about everything imaginable, yes including shoes, for use in campaigns - or did you imagine professional photographers work for free?
              • by cdrguru (88047)

                Well, if it is posted on the Internet then yes, I expect they now work for free. If it is on the Internet then it is available for anyone to use in any manner they see fit.

                Lots of professional photographers have figured this out, sometimes from posting samples of their work.

            • When was the last time someone tried to sell you a picture of a shoe?

              About two hours ago when I was at a stop light.

        • by rawler (1005089)

          I think that copyright law needs some serious work

          There, fixed that for you.

        • by VShael (62735)

          They're not claiming copyright or publicly using it to make money on their website

          Oh, I get it! If I don't claim copyright, or publicly use it to make money on my website, I can have a personal for-use copy of anything I like.

          If only the courts thought the same way.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Aceticon (140883)

          It's still a copyright violation when an individual (thus not a business) downloads music or software for the purpose of evaluation (thus not for profit and with the intent of paying for it later) without the copyright holder's authorization.

          Similarly, if a charity downloads images from the net and uses them in a campaign to call people's attention to problem X, it's still a copyright violation.

          Copyright legislation still it illegal to copy something without authorization from the copyright holder even if o

        • by rolfwind (528248)

          But isn't what everything the US government produces public domain? (Yes, this is Sweden and top secret is another issue but let's just assume for your argument.) So, are you saying that the government ignore copyright and essentially make a photographer's work (who isn't working for contracted by the government) public domain at will? Are you saying that Government material become a mishmash of IP licenses? What?

      • by dreampod (1093343)

        I understand that perfectly. However TFA and TFS both imply that it is the 'Shoe Database' itself that is violating copyright rather than the fact that they went out and used copyrighted photos to generate that database. The difference between the two is enormous and the articles and people discussing the two should stop conflating them.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by bennomatic (691188)
        Uh, isn't this how Google images works?

        I mean, it'd be one thing if they were building this database for sale, or as a SAAS solution that other police departments were going to pay them for. But I'm sure there are lots of applications which do indeed scarf images randomly for the web and repurpose them for their own use, without threat of copyright lawsuits.
      • by ascari (1400977)
        I think you missed the point: Think of how cold it is in Sweden. Shoe theft is a very big deal in the winter.
      • by VShael (62735)

        I can't do that with images, music, or anything else, and neither can any other agency. Otherwise, I could just download all the music in the world, and claim that I am building a database for future use in identifying stolen music.

        Doesn't work that way.

        And yet, bizarrely, it DOES work that way. Just not for the plebian masses like you and me. But for the elites, and our lords and masters, you betcha.

        The police, for example, collect paedophiliac imagery and add it to the already massive database they have o

    • by John Hasler (414242) on Thursday September 09, 2010 @08:00PM (#33529190) Homepage

      As far as I can tell from the article no shoe company has complained. It appears that some professor has merely speculated that the database may infringe copyrights.

      I agree with the suggestion that they would get better quality data by working with the manufacturers, though.

      • by ascari (1400977)
        Trust me, the complaints will come when the lawyers RTFA.
        • by delinear (991444)
          Well the big shoe companies would probably just cooperate with the police, but assuming the photographer owns the IP (and the shoe company only the rights to use the image in a specific manner that doesn't include building a police database), what's the betting that IP troll lawyers are already firing off emails to solicit the business of shoe photographers, or just outright offering them cash for the IP rights?
      • by Sique (173459)

        The shoe companies are (in Sweden) not the entities to complain or file suits. It's the original photographers, whose Author's Right might be infringend upon.

      • As far as I can tell from the article no shoe company has complained.

        Not true. The original article in Svenska Dagbladet says (my translation): [www.svd.se]

        Shoe company Brandos [sic], Sweden's larget online shoe company, reacted when the National Police Agency proudly presented their new shoe database the other week.

        - To our great surprise we saw that the image on the police's web site looked suspiciously like one of our images. In a story on [TV channel] SVT we then saw that more images were taken from us, says Fredr

    • Is it strange that I for some reason really want to get my hands on such a database? Why yes Watson!, I do recognize that shoe print, its obviously a recent edition of the Florsheim Imperial, our killer is obviously wealthy and well dressed!

      • ... our killer is obviously wealthy and well dressed.

        Or the killer is me :) My Imperials were so devoid of anything resembling a tread that for the first couple of weeks just walking down the street was dangerous. The best you would get would be a line of stitch marks and, in really deep mud, a shallow Florsheim logo. They have a tread now, but you won't find it in Florsheim's catalogue.

  • Process (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rjstanford (69735) on Thursday September 09, 2010 @07:22PM (#33528818) Homepage Journal

    Had they just requested sample prints, many (most?) shoe companies would probably have been happy to provide them with a full list - not because they had to, but because its a simple enough request to comply with. By doing the work themselves they ended up with less useful data that's, quite possibly, illegal to use.

    Sigh...

    • Re:Process (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ScrewMaster (602015) * on Thursday September 09, 2010 @07:27PM (#33528862)

      Had they just requested sample prints, many (most?) shoe companies would probably have been happy to provide them with a full list - not because they had to, but because its a simple enough request to comply with. By doing the work themselves they ended up with less useful data that's, quite possibly, illegal to use.

      Sigh...

      Well, I'm not a lawyer (certainly not a Swedish lawyer) but it seems likely that if the cops used a database that was illegally garnered, they might find any cases using that information compromised in some way. Not very smart on their part, any way you look at this.

  • Witty title (Score:3, Funny)

    by chemicaldave (1776600) on Thursday September 09, 2010 @07:25PM (#33528838)
    kudos to you
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 09, 2010 @08:27PM (#33529376)

      If you enjoyed Swedish Police Shoe Database May Tread on Copyright you may also enjoy:

      Swedish Police Shoe Database Steps Over the Line
      Cops Heels, Won't Toe the Line
      Swedish Police Trample Copyright Law
      Police Shoe Database Doesn't Foot With Swedish Copyright Law
      Cops Caught, Read Footed

  • I guess now we really do live in a world where the Colonel "Bat" Guano's line: "You're gonna have to answer to the Coca-Cola company." is the correct thought
    The idea "Can you possibly imagine what is going to happen to you, your frame, outlook, way of life, and everything, when they learn that you have obstructed a ... " [shoe print] lost out.
  • by yyxx (1812612)

    Let's see: downloading publicly accessible images from the Internet in order to build a searchable database is now illegal in Sweden? How do Google and Bing do it then?

  • Just pay the fuckers before they realize it's coming out of their taxes anyways.
  • I'm sure there's already a fetish for shoe soles. They could just go online and torrent somebody's archive of photos.... upps...

  • They copied this idea from _Law and Order_.

  • The Swedish police, who have been instrumental in various raids against file-sharing sites, may have a bit of a piracy problem [...] people (and some shoe companies) are pointing out that creating a database isn't about an investigation.

    I'd like to see a list of the shoe companies that are objecting to this. I suspect there are none, and that this is simply the futile ranting of an intellectual property professor (RTFA) who is sore over his favorite torrent site getting raided. Nothing to see here...move along. This should not have made it to the front page on /.

  • it's different when the "Authoritez" do it! Really! And it's for the children!!!!!
  • I mean, this seems like an opportunity for them to make nice with The Man.
  • Who needs a database of shoe types?

    Instead, zoom in on an image of the footprint and extract the fingerprint of the worker that made the sole. Feed this into the international shoe-maker database to get a positive ID on who did the shoe. Find out he/she works and get the batch numbers of the soles made and consult the FBI shoe distribution database to see where they ended up. Get CCTV footage from the store showing the correct shoe type being sold. If the customer faces are obscured get extra CSI brownie p

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