April 23, 2009

Retrial In Pirate Bay Case?

Legal experts said Thursday that a Swedish judge who had found four men guilty of promoting copyright infringement by operating the file sharing Web site The Pirate Bay may have been biased.

A retrial of the case may now be ordered.

"The trial may have to be redone. But in such case the lawyers have to request this immediately," the AFP quoted Leif Silbersky, one of Sweden's most prominent defense lawyers, as saying during an interview with Swedish Radio.

Silbersky made his remarks after the radio station revealed that Tomas Norstroem, one of the judges in the case, belongs to numerous copyright protection associations of which many record and film industry officials are also members.

On April 17, a district court in Stockholm sentenced Fredrik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm, Peter Sunde and Carl Lundstroem each to a one-year jail term, and ordered them to pay damages $3.56 million to the film and recording industry.

The four have pledged to appeal the ruling.

Peter Althin, Sunde's defense lawyer, said Thursday that he would demand a retrial.

"In my appeal I'm going to argue that (the judge was biased). The court of appeal can then decide whether the district court's verdict should be thrown out and the case retried," said Althin.

Norstroem and Monique Wadsted, who represented the film and recording industry in the trial, are members of the Swedish Copyright Association. And Judge Norstroem also sits on the board of the Swedish Association for the Protection of Industrial Property.

However, he insisted that he was not biased.

"I do not consider myself biased because of these affiliations," an AFP report quoted him as saying.

But Eric Bylander, a litigation law lecturer at Gothenburg's business school, said the Norstroem's opinion mattered little.

"It can look bad, regardless of what the judge thinks. In a high-profile case like this, it surprises me that they weren't more cautious," he told the AFP.

One lay judge who was a member of a composers' association was removed before the trial because of his possible conflict of interest .

The Pirate Bay allows users to avert copyright fees and share film, music and computer game files using bit torrent technology or peer-to-peer links.  Founded in 2003, the site claims to have about 22 million users across the world. None of the content can be found on The Pirate Bay server itself.


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