Pirates to prison with full sail!

The men behind The Pirate Bay were today found guilty of aiding and abetting illegal downloads of copyrighted materials via their BitTorrent Tracker site. The accused were all sentenced to one year's imprisonment by the Stockholm District Court.

According to Dagens Nyheter the accused were also sentenced to pay 30 million in damages for their violations of copyright law. The damages were however reduced from 100 to 30 million SEK ($3.6 million) due to the fact that the damages were miscalculated on the basis of the digital services, rather than on the basis of the "physical product".

The Stockholm District Court determines that the accused worked as a team for the operation and development of The Pirate Bay site and that the accused have been aware of the fact that copyrighted material has been shared via their site. The accused were therefore found guilty of aiding and abetting the crime. Dagens Nyheter reports further that the indictment on the preparation for violation of copyright law was dismissed by the court.

The Wall Street Journal states that "the case represents the culmination of U.S. attempts to get Sweden to take intellectual-property theft more seriously". The sentences declared today could therefore be a result of this pressure from the U.S.

In a survey from 2007, conducted in Sweden by Sweden’s largest phone company, 43% of the participating Internet users stated that they planned to download pirated music that year. The Pirate Bay site is - with approximately 22 million users -  one of the world's largest BitTorrent tracker sites. The Swedish Internet traffic has, however, decreased drastically since the 1st of April 2009 when IPRED (the International Property Rights Enforcement Directive) was implemented. Bahnhof, a Swedish ISP, states that the traffic almost halved after the implementation of the law, something that may jeopardize an entire industry. The future will tell if the trend will continue or if the drop was caused by other temporary circumstances.

As reported priorly, IPRED - followed by IPRED2 - is an EU directive that may be implemented by the member states within the EU if they choose to do so. Sweden chose to go that route. The directive allows the rightholders – such as the film and recording industry - to participate in so-called “joint investigation teams” in order to facilitate investigative work in cases related to intellectual property along with allowing the rightholders to obtain the identities of individuals that conduct illegal file sharing. This is very controversial as the "investigations" may breach the privacy of Internet users. The Lambrinidis report - by the Greek politician and European Parliament member Stavros Lambrinidis - was voted through by a great majority in the EU on March 26, 2009. The report states that the EU should introduce a ban against a systematic surveillance of user activities on the Internet.  As many popular services, such as YouTube, risk being criminalized it could be argued that IPRED2 limits the digital living space of common Internet users. The Lambrinidis report further states that the penalties for the crimes committed has to be proportionate to the magnitude of the crimes. The discussions on whether the ruling against the men behind The Pirate Bay site was fair or not will certainly continue and the sentences are most likely to be appealed.

Pekka Andelin

Lavasoft Malware Labs