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Fri Apr 17 23:44:07 AEST 2009
Swedish court jails 4 linked to file-sharing site
Pirate Bay also ordered to pay $3.6-million in damages to
April 17, 2009 at 6:28 AM EDT
STOCKHOLM - Four men linked to popular file-sharing site Pirate Bay
were convicted Friday of breaking Sweden's copyright law by helping
millions of users freely download music, movies and computer games on
In a landmark ruling, the Stockholm district court sentenced Gottfrid
Svartholm Warg, Peter Sunde, Fredrik Neij and Carl Lundstrom to one
year each in prison.
They were also ordered to pay damages of 30 million kronor
($3.6-million U.S.) to a series of entertainment companies, including
Warner Bros, Sony Music Entertainment, EMI and Columbia Pictures.
Pirate Bay provides a forum for its estimated 22 million users to
download content through so-called torrent files. The site has become
the entertainment industry's enemy No. 1 after successful court
actions against file-swapping sites such as Grokster and Kazaa.
Media scramble to get a copy of the Pirate Bay trial verdict at the
courthouse Stockholm. A Swedish court handed down a guilty verdict
and a year in prison on Friday to all four founders of music sharing
service Pirate Bay. (Reuters)
Mr. Lundstrom helped finance the site while the three other
defendants administered it.
Defence lawyers had argued the quartet should be acquitted because
Pirate Bay doesn't host any copyright-protected material. Instead, it
provides a forum for its users to download content through so-called
torrent files. The technology allows users to transfer parts of a
large file from several different users, increasing download speeds.
The court found the defendants guilty of helping users commit
copyright violations "by providing a website with ... sophisticated
search functions, simple download and storage capabilities, and
through the tracker linked to the website."
Judge Tomas Norstrom told reporters that the court took into account
that the site was "commercially driven" when it made the ruling. The
defendants have denied any commercial motives behind the site.
John Kennedy, the head of the International Federation of the
Phonographic Industry, called the verdict "good news for everyone, in
Sweden and internationally, who is making a living or a business from
creative activity and who needs to know their rights will be
protected by law."
The defendants said before the verdict that they would appeal if they
were found guilty.
"Stay calm - Nothing will happen to TPB, us personally or file
sharing whatsoever. This is just a theater for the media," Mr. Sunde
said Friday in a posting on social networking site Twitter.
The court hearings, which ended March 3, renewed debate about
file-sharing in Sweden, where many defend the right to swap songs and
movies freely on the Internet. Critics say that Swedish authorities
caved in to pressure from the U.S. when they launched the crackdown
on Pirate Bay in 2006.
Pirate Bay's supporters mobilized for the trial, waving black
skull-and-crossbones flags outside the court and setting up a website
dedicated to the proceedings. The defendants sent updates from the
court hearings through social network Twitter.
The verdict comes as Europe debates stricter rules to crack down on
those who share content illegally on the Internet.
Last week French legislators rejected a plan to cut off the Internet
connections of people who illegally download music and films, but the
government plans to resurrect the bill for another vote this month.
Opponents said the legislation would represent a Big Brother
intrusion on civil liberties, while the European Parliament last
month adopted a nonbinding resolution that defines Internet access as
an untouchable "fundamental freedom."
Sweden earlier this month introduced a new law that makes it easier
to prosecute file-sharers because it requires Internet Service
Providers to disclose the Internet Protocol-addresses of suspected
violators to copyright owners.
Critics said the new law could harm Sweden's reputation as a spawning
ground for Internet technology. The country of nine million has one
of Europe's highest rates of Internet penetration, but has also
gained a reputation as a hub for file-sharers.
Statistics from the Netnod Internet Exchange, an organization
measuring Internet traffic in Sweden, suggested that daily online
activity dropped more than 40 per cent after the law took effect on
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