April 18, 2009
Source: Wired, and elsewhere.
The judgment hammer comes down. For the admins of The Pirate Bay, the hammer came down hard. Fredrik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, Peter Sunde, and Carl Lundström have been found guilty of “contributory copyright infringement” and sentenced to a year in jail each and fined 30 million kronor, or $3.6 million US. The content syndicates were applauding the decision with their one free hand:
“Today’s ruling sends an important signal that online criminals who show such blatant disregard for the rights of others will be fully prosecuted under the law,” said Mark Esper, a vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
“We welcome the court’s decision today because The Pirate Bay is a source of immense damage to the creative industries in Sweden and internationally,” said Dan Glickman, chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America. “This is an important decision for rights-holders, underlining their right to have their creative works protected against illegal exploitation and to be fairly rewarded for their endeavors. This decision will help to support the continued investment in talent and in new online services, and the creation of new films and television shows for enjoyment by audiences around the world.”
Knocked down, but not kicked offline. While Hollywood may have hoped that the verdict will mean the plug would be pulled on TPB’s servers, the Bay crew have expressed their continued defiance in their blog:
So, the dice courts judgement is here. It was lol to read and hear, crazy verdict.
But as in all good movies, the heroes lose in the beginning but have an epic victory in the end anyhow. That’s the only thing hollywood ever taught us.
Even on their press conference video, their defiance of the verdict is made clear:
(From BBC News) “It’s serious to actually be found guilty and get jail time. It’s really serious. And that’s a bit weird,” Sunde said.
“It’s so bizarre that we were convicted at all and it’s even more bizarre that we were [convicted] as a team. The court said we were organised. I can’t get Gottfrid out of bed in the morning. If you’re going to convict us, convict us of disorganised crime.
“We can’t pay and we wouldn’t pay. Even if I had the money I would rather burn everything I owned, and I wouldn’t even give them the ashes.”
A Pyrrhic victory. If the content syndicates believe this verdict will end file sharing they need to drink more coffee. Their win is already having the opposite effect, as TorrentFreak is reporting an increase in membership of Sweden’s Pirate Party, who view the trial as a political battle:
(BBC News) - Rickard Falkvinge, leader of The Pirate Party - which is trying to reform laws around copyright and patents in the digital age - told the BBC that the verdict was “a gross injustice”.
“This wasn’t a criminal trial, it was a political trial. It is just gross beyond description that you can jail four people for providing infrastructure.
“There is a lot of anger in Sweden right now. File-sharing is an institution here and while I can’t encourage people to break copyright law, I’m not following it and I don’t agree with it.
“Today’s events make file-sharing a hot political issue and we’re going to take this to the European Parliament.”
But the verdict is just be a moot point, according to Anders Rydell, who wrote a book about TPB and was interviewed by Wired about the outcome:
I actually think this a win-win situation for The Pirate Bay. If they’re convicted, they’ll be martyrs and the “piracy” movement will continue working for what they believe in, even more strongly. If they win, the signal to the public is that file sharing isn’t illegal and The Pirate Bay will basically have achieved its goal.
It IS about control of virtually every single bit of information and entertainment. Their current argument could easily be made for news and information shows, educational shows and documentaries.
BREAKING UPDATE (23-Apr-09): We know that the verdict wasn’t the final word in the Pirate Bay case, but now there’s word all over the net that the trial itself may be invalid all along. The problem? The judge who rendered the verdict and sentences:
Wired - One of the four men convicted in The Pirate Bay trial is seeking to have his guilty verdict thrown out after learning that the judge in the trial is a member of two pro-copyright groups, including one whose membership includes entertainment industry representatives who argued in the case.
Stockholm district court judge, Tomas Norström told a Swedish newspaper that his previously-undisclosed entanglements with the copyright groups did not constitute a conflict of interest.
TorrentFreak - Today, an event on Swedish national radio SR threw everything into doubt - and it’s barely believable, like something straight out of Hollywood.
The copyright industry likes to have the outcome of processes clear before engaging them so it’s perhaps unsurprising that SR today revealed that the judge Tomas Norström is in league with it on many fronts. The judge has several engagements - together with the prosecution lawyers for the movie and music industries.
Swedish Association of Copyright (SFU) - The judge Tomas Norström is a member of this discussion forum that holds seminars, debates and releases the Nordic Intellectual Property Law Review. Other members of this outfit? Henrik Pontén (Swedish Anti-Piracy Bureau), Monique Wadsted (movie industry lawyer) and Peter Danowsky (IFPI) - the latter is also a member of the board of the association.
Swedish Association for the Protection of Industrial Property (SFIR) - The judge Tomas Norström sits on the board of this association that works for stronger copyright laws. Last year they held the Nordic Championships in Intellectual Property Rights Process Strategies.
.SE (The Internet Infrastructure Foundation) - Tomas Norström works for the foundation that oversees the .se name domain and advises on domain name disputes. His colleague at the foundation? Monique Wadsted. Wadsted says she’s never met Norström although they have worked together.
Meanwhile, President Obama plants RIAA sock puppets in the Department of Justice. If The Pirate Bay is ever “prosecuted” in America, Obama’s DoJ pics have already doomed any hope of making it stick.
As always, we’ll keep you informed as the war for the Internets heat up…