STOCKHOLM – Four men behind popular file-sharing site The Pirate
Bay were convicted today 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 (about $4.3 million) to a string of
entertainment companies, including Warner Bros, Sony Music
Entertainment, EMI and Columbia Pictures.
With an estimated 22
million users, The Pirate Bay has become the entertainment industry’s
enemy No. 1 after successful court actions against file-swapping sites
such as Grokster and Kazaa.
Lundstrom helped finance the site, while the three other defendants administered it.
Lawyers for the accused based their defence on the fact that The 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.
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.”
In a video clip posted on the
Internet, Sunde called the ruling “bizarre” and said it would be
appealed. He also dismissed the damages to the entertainment companies,
saying “we can’t pay and we won’t pay.”
Mockingly, he held up a
hand-scribbled “I owe U” note to the camera. “This is as close as you
will get to having money from us,” he said.
The case focused on
dozens of works that the prosecutor said were downloaded illegally.
They included songs by the Beatles, Robbie Williams and Coldplay,
movies such as Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and computer games including World of Warcraft – Invasion.
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, head of the International Federation of the Phonographic
Industry, called the verdict good news for anyone “who is making a
living or a business from creative activity and who needs to know their
rights will be protected by law.”
When he testified in the trial
on behalf of international music companies, Kennedy said that illegal
file-sharing had cost the recording industry billions of dollars in
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 accuse Swedish
authorities of having caved in to pressure from the United States when
they launched the crackdown on The 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 on social networking site 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
non-binding resolution that defines Internet access as an untouchable
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.
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 April 1.