updated 11:15 am EDT, Fri April 17, 2009
Pirate Bay founders guilty
A court in Stockholm, Sweden has ruled against the four founders of file-sharing site The Pirate Bay on Friday. Accused of "assisting in making copyright content available," Peter Sunde, Fredrik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm and Carl Lundström were each sentenced to serve one year in jail and ordered to pay a fine equivalent to about $905,000 each for a total of some $3.62 million by the court. The sum was short of what the prosecution representing recording studios were seeking, though it remains unknown.
"The court has found that by using Pirate Bay's services there has been file-sharing of music, films and computer games to the extent the prosecutor has stated in his case," the judge stated in his ruling. "This file-sharing constitutes an unlawful transfer to the public of copyrighted performances."
The court ruled the infringements as being severe, adding that the accused assisted the users of The Pirate Bay, who committed the first offense by sharing files. BitTorrent usage at The Pirate Bay was deemed illegal by the judge, which could set a precedent for similar website in Sweden and perhaps worldwide.
"This will cause a flood of court cases. Against all the ISPs. Because if these guys assisted in copyright infringements, then the ISPs also did," said Roger Wallis, composer and emeritus professor of media at the Royal Institute of Technology, speaking on behalf of the defendants at the trial. "This will have huge consequences. The entire development of broadband may be stalled."
Apparently, the court's decision was leaked to the press about an hour before it was made official and public, according to Sunde's lawyer. Svartholm's lawyer said he would appeal the matter, and found it surprising that the court treated the accused as a team. Either side has until May 9th to appeal the decision in Sweden's higher court.
The site itself will continue to operate for the foreseeable future, Sunde promises, as it was the founders and not the site itself that were on trial.
The Pirate Bay's founders and supporters had argued that the site doesn't violate the law through the nature of BitTorrent. Since The Pirate Bay only hosts trackers that point clients to the software on others' systems rather than the actual content itself, the defense had argued that it wasn't directly involved in sharing files.