By Kayvon Afshari CBS News World Watch
Piracy was dealt a blow on Friday in an unusual place. No, not off the coast of Somalia but in a Stockholm courtroom, as four Swedes who run ThePirateBay.org were found guilty of infringing copyright law by assisting in making movies, music, and television shows available for free download. Peter Sunde, Fredrik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm, and Carl Lundström were sentenced to one year in prison each and ordered to pay damages of $3.6 million to several entertainment companies in both a criminal and civil case.
The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, which led the civil case against the four defendants, rejoiced the verdict and said it set the right precedent.
“The court has also handed down a strong deterrent sentence that reflects the seriousness of the crimes committed,” said IFPI Chairman and CEO John Kennedy. “This is 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 protected by law.”
However, the dispute may not be settled yet, as it is likely to undergo an appeals process.
“I don’t think that [jail time] is going to happen. I’m still quite confident that the higher up you go in the Swedish court system, the more fair judgment you will get. … No one can say that this was a fair judgment,” Peter Sunde said in a press conference that was broadcast live over the Web site Bambuser.com.
The defense argued that The Pirate Bay acts like Google and other search engines, but does not host any copyrighted material on its servers. They also brought a lively atmosphere, with a rented party bus outside the courtroom and many supporters demonstrating in the streets.
Sweden appears to have emerged as a battleground in the debate surrounding online piracy. Boasting one of the highest connectivity rates, the Scandinavian country has even seen the recent rise of Pirate Party, a one-issue political party dedicated to reforming Sweden’s copyright laws.
Pirate Party’s vice-chairman, Christian Engstrom, said file-sharing is a great benefit to emerging artists and even offers some benefits to large record companies.
“In the music industry, what’s happening is that CD sales have dropped. But now people have more money in their pocket to go to concerts which is good for artists because they make more money that way,” Engstrom said.