Pirate Bay four jailed for breaking copyright in Swedish file-sharing trial
The founders of file-sharing website The Pirate Bay have been sentenced to a year in jail in Sweden for breaking copyright laws by helping millions of users download music, movies and computer games for free.
Experts believe the ruling could be the first step towards ending illegal downloading, which has cost music and film companies billions of dollars in lost revenue.
Founders Peter Sunde and Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, along with two other employees Fredrik Neij and Carl Lundström, were sentenced to a year in jail after being found guilty in a Swedish court of making 33 copyright-protected files accessible for illegal downloading on the website Piratebay.org.
The four were also ordered to pay $3.6 m (£2.4m) in damages to copyright holders, including Warner Brothers, MGM, Columbia Pictures, 20th Century Fox Films, Sony and Universal, according to Swedish media reports.
In a Twitter posting before sentencing, Mr Sunde said: “Nothing will happen to TPB [the Pirate Bay], this is just theatre for the media.”
The Pirate Bay provides a forum for its estimated 22 million users to download content. The site has become the entertainment industry’s enemy No. 1 after successful court actions against file-swapping sites such as Grokster and Kazaa.
Defence lawyers had argued the men should be acquitted because The Pirate Bay does not host any copyright-protected material. Instead, it provides a forum for its users to download content through so-called torrent files. The technology allows users to transfer parts of a large file from several different users, increasing download speeds.
But the court found the defendants guilty of helping users commit copyright violations “by providing a website with … sophisticated search functions, simple download and storage capabilities, and through the tracker linked to the website”.
Judge Tomas Norstrom told reporters that the court took into account that the site was “commercially driven” when it made the ruling. The defendants have denied any commercial motives behind the site.
John Kennedy, the head of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, said the verdict was “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 be protected by law.”
Supporters set up a website dedicated to the trial, and the defendants sent updates from the court hearings through social network Twitter.
Forrester Research analyst Mark Mulligan said: “The music industry has come out of this with a ruling that is more positive for them than many had been expected.” But he warned that the epidemic of file sharing will continue to grow via instant messaging, email and blogs, as well as file sharing websites.
He said the verdict could have implications for Google, as it provides links to illegal content.
Dawn Osborne, copyright lawyer at intellectual property firm Rouse, said: “Pirate Bay have been thumbing their nose at the establishment for too long and the view of many content owners will be that they have finally got what they deserved.
“Copyright protection is crucial to ensuring that creativity and innovation continue and much needed economic prosperity returns. The case shows that breach of these rights potentially has very serious consequences.”