Keeping or handling a computer virus with the intention of committing a crime may constitute a criminal offence, according to a recent amendment to Swedish criminal law.

The rule regarding criminal liability for planning a crime, which was enacted in 1948, had become obsolete because of technological and social advances. The 1948 rule stated:

"Anyone who receives money as compensation for perpetration of a crime or procures, produces, leaves, receives, keeps, transports or takes other such control of poison, explosives, weapons, skeleton keys, counterfeiting materials or other such means, shall be held liable for perpetration of that crime."

The phrase 'other such means' was interpreted so narrowly that many plans to commit crimes were not considered illegal. The amended rule has a much wider scope, and the legislators state in their preparatory work that software, viruses and information are specifically covered. Thus, keeping a virus with the intention of committing a crime is itself a crime. Giving a virus to someone who the donor knows intends to use the virus to commit a crime is also a crime.

It is possible that the amended rule may be interpreted so broadly that someone who gives a 'crack' file (ie, a software file used to crack into copyright-protected works, like DVDs) to another person with the knowledge that it will be used to infringe copyright may be found guilty of planning the crime.

For further information on this topic please contact Agne Lindberg at Advokatfirman Delphi & Co by telephone (+46 8 677 54 00) or by fax (+46 8 20 18 84) or by email ([email protected]).