Tempers flared during The Pirate Bay trial on Wednesday afternoon as a record company executive argued the popular file sharing site was to blame for falling music sales.
As the trial entered its seventh day, lawyers spent the morning questioning Tobias Andersson a spokesperson for Piratbyrån, a pro-file sharing advocacy group in Sweden, about his connection to The Pirate Bay.
He admitted writing a controversial 2005 speech given by Fredrik Neij, one of the men charged in the case, but claimed that the rally at which the speech was given was a general protest against the police’s actions when they confiscated several servers, including one belonging to The Pirate Bay.
Next on the stand was John Kennedy, chairman of the board for the IFPI recording industry association, who was questioned with the help of an English-language interpreter.
According to Kennedy, piracy had caused “significant damage to the music industry as a whole” and argued that the estimated €2.1 million ($2.7 million) damage claim was “justified and maybe even conservative because the damage is immense.”
Giggles and snickering erupted from the viewing gallery, however, when Kennedy explained how record companies divide their earnings between artist development and market research, according to an account by the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.
He also rebutted arguments by those who claim that illegal file sharing benefits the music industry.
“That’s an old-fashioned view that no one holds these days. A study from 2003 or 2004 supported it. Since then five more studies have contradicted it. In any case, recording artists have the right to decide how their music is used,” said Kennedy.
Kennedy also cautioned against comparing The Pirate Bay to Google because the latter actively works in concert with the entertainment industry to combat illegal file sharing, while The Pirate Bay does nothing.
He added that Google searches point users to a wide range of material, including newspaper articles, rather than to a targeted list of links to copyrighted material, as one gets from a search on The Pirate Bay.
As Kennedy continued to speak out against the popular file sharing site, defence lawyers interrupted his remarks.
“This is a political speech!” exclaimed Per E. Samuelson, prompting the chief judge to remind the witness that the trial concerned compensation and The Pirate Bay.
Following testimony from Pär Ekengren of the Lindebergs Grant Thornton consultancy about how damages for the case were calculated, the head of the Swedish chapter of IFPI, Ludvig Werner, took the stand.
Werner explained that The Pirate Bay was especially damaging for smaller, independent record companies who can find their already small sales figures decimated by file sharing.
He added that it’s impossible to calculate lost value on a per recording basis and that one must instead rely on sales figures.
“And they’ve fallen by 50 percent,” he said.
Defence attorney Jonas Nilsson returned to the question of whether IFPI had ever carried out any analyses on specific works.
“No, we haven’t done any analyses on specific albums,” replied Werner.
“You realize that it’s not The Pirate Bay which handles the musical works, but rather internet users?” pressed Nilsson.
“Have you tried making contact with any internet users?”
Werner then theorized that The Pirate Bay was bribing Swedish hip-hop artist Timbuktu to speak favourably about file sharing.
“I don’t know why he speaks like that,” said Werner.
“Maybe he’s getting paid by The Pirate Bay.”
As discussion returned to the appropriate level of compensation for lost sales, Werner hinted that the current claim was likely quite conservative.
The claim, he said, “doesn’t come anywhere near the damages they’ve caused”.
The day’s final witness was Per Sundin, the head of Universal Music in Sweden, who said that his company’s global record sales have dropped from 2 billion kronor to 800 million in recent years.
“Sweden has the worst respect for copyright in the world,” he said.
“Just as the rest of the world thinks of China and Vietnam, so the record companies view Sweden today.”
He illustrated his point by discussing a forthcoming U2 album, due for release next week, which is already available for download via The Pirate Bay.
“The damage is obviously quite large,” he said.
Asked by Peter Danowsky, attorney for IFPI, about other possible causes for dropping music sales, Sundin admitted there may be other factors but that “for us in the industry the big problem is The Pirate Bay.”
Defence attorney Samuelson returned to the story of the U2 album, pointing out that it was actually someone at the record company who issued the wrong release date, allowing a digital copy of the record to end up in an Australian record shop.
He pressed Sundin to answer how The Pirate Bay was involved with the matter.
“Someone uploaded it and now The Pirate Bay is providing a record which hasn’t even been released,” the Universal Music executive replied in a raised voice.
Samuelson then asked why the record company hadn’t instead gone after whoever uploaded the U2 album in the first place.
“If we had more resources we would have. But we’re going after the biggest and baddest villain of the piece and that is The Pirate Bay,” exclaimed a flustered Sundin.
“Do you believe that those who uploaded the file violated copyright laws?” continued Samuelson.
“Why aren’t you hunting them?”
“This isn’t about a bunch of young people that do this. It’s about The Pirate Bay, or am I wrong?” said Sundin.