April 17, 2009

Pirate Bay Operators Found Guilty

A court in Stockholm, Sweden found four men guilty of breaching copyright laws in their involvement with one of the world's most popular file sharing Web site.

Founders of The Pirate Bay - Frederik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, Carl Lundstrom and Peter Sunde - were sentenced to one year in prison and must pay just over 30 million Swedish crowns ($3.58 million).

"The Stockholm district court has today found guilty the four individuals that were charged with accessory to breaching copyright laws," the court said in a statement. "The court has sentenced each of them to one year in prison."

According to Reuters, companies such as Warner Bros., MGM, Columbia Pictures, 20th Century Fox Films, Sony BMG, Universal and EMI were all seeking payment for damages of more than 100 million crowns ($12 million).

Lundstrom's attorney referred to the ruling as "outrageous," adding that he is planning to appeal.

"This is the first word, not the last. The last word will be ours," said attorney Per Samuelson.

"It's so bizarre that we were convicted at all and it's even more bizarre that we were [convicted] as a team," said co-founder Sunde during an online press conference.

"The court said we were organized. I can't get Gottfrid out of bed in the morning. If you're going to convict us, convict us of disorganized 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."

The Pirate Bay began its operations in 2003. It asserts its innocence to claims of copyright infringement due to the fact that its servers are not used to store any of the copyrighted materials being dispersed by users.

But prosecutors argue that their involvement through financing, programming and administering the Web site promotes illegal activity among the sites estimated 22 million users.

"By providing a website with ... well-developed search functions, easy uploading and storage possibilities, and with a tracker linked to the website, the accused have incited the crimes that the filesharers have committed," the court said in a statement.

"The trial of the operators of The Pirate Bay was about defending the rights of creators, confirming the illegality of the service and creating a fair environment for legal music services that respect the rights of the creative community," said John Kennedy chairman and chief executive of IFPI, which represents the recording industry.

"Today's verdict is the right outcome on all three counts," said Kennedy. "The court has also handed down a strong deterrent sentence that reflects the seriousness of the crimes committed. This is 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 protected by law."

But industry experts say that the verdict will not change the course of file sharing.

"Every time you get rid of one, another bigger one pops up. Napster went, and then up came a whole host of others ... The problem of file-sharing just keeps growing year on year, and it's increasingly difficult for the industry to do anything about it," music analyst Mark Mulligan, of research firm Forrester, told Reuters.

"You have to remember, this case is still not actually judged," Sunde said during the press conference. "This is only the first level of court, and the final verdict is not out before the last appeal is denied."


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