June 25, 2009

Appeals Court Denies Pirate Bay Retrial

A Swedish court of appeals dismissed on Thursday requests for a retrial of four men who ran The Pirate Bay file sharing Web site.

On April 17, a Stockholm district court had found the four men guilty of promoting copyright infringement.

Pirate Bay allowed users to avert copyright fees and share movies, music and computer game files using bit torrent technology, or peer-to-peer links, provided by the site.  None of the content can be found on The Pirate Bay server itself.

Lawyers for the four men were appealing the district court ruling, calling for a retrial because one of the judges, Tomas Norstroem, is a member of several copyright protection associations of which media industry officials are belong.  Norstroem's membership in the organizations made him biased, the lawyers said.

But the Svea court of appeals disagreed.

"This was not a case of bias," the court of appeals said in a statement.

However, the court said the judge should have notified the court of his affiliations early on in the proceedings.

"The fact that he failed to shed light on this does not however mean that there was any wrongdoing during the proceedings that would require a retrial," the court of appeals said.

The Stockholm district court had sentenced Fredrik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm, Peter Sunde and Carl Lundstroem each to one year in jail. They were also ordered to pay damages of $3.56 million to the movie and recording industry.

Norstroem, Monique Wadsted, who represented the film and recording industry in the trial, and Henrik Ponten, head of the Swedish Anti-Piracy Agency, all belong to the Swedish Copyright Association. Judge Norstroem is also a member of the board of the Swedish Association for the Protection of Industrial Property.

In April, Norstroem insisted he was not biased.

"I do not consider myself biased because of these affiliations," he said.

The court has not yet set a date for the appeals trial.

Founded in 2003, The Pirate Bay claims to have some 22 million users worldwide.