Swedish Prosecutors Aim To Sink Pirates

Dennis Faas's picture

Swedish prosecutors have finally begun prosecuting the owners of the popular Pirate Bay website. The peer-to-peer page is one of the leading websites for users of the BitTorrent system of downloading ; in theory the system can carry any type of file, though it's most commonly used for copyrighted material such as videos, music and games.

The key legal point with such file-sharing systems is that websites such as Pirate Bay don't actually host the files themselves. Instead, they merely provide computers with the information needed to get the files from other users.

Four men have been charged with conspiracy to break copyright law. Prosecutors say their case is based on the point that the site, which has around 10 to 15 million users, is commercially exploiting the copyright owners because it profits from advertising. There are claims the site makes up to $3 million a year in ad revenue.

The charges cover 20 music files, nine films, and four computer games. The maximum sentence is two years in prison, and prosecutors say the four men should pay damages of at least $180,000. (Source: bbc.co.uk)

The site owners claim they are not committing any offences because the ad revenue merely covers the costs of running the site. A spokesman told a British newspaper last year, "I don't like the word untouchable, but we feel pretty safe."

Swedish police briefly shut down the site in 2007 by seizing Pirate Bay computers. In response, the owners set up a political party campaigning for the right to share copyrighted information. (Source: guardian.co.uk)

This will be a test case for the principles of copyright online; the question is whether giving people the capability to download copyrighted material is legally the same as actually providing the material. The problem for music and movie producers is that even if Sweden's courts outlaw file-sharing, people in countries with less stringent copyright laws will likely fill the gap in the market.

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