A man in Västerås has become the first Swede to be charged with illegally sharing files via the Internet. But prosecutors say that unless the case results in a prison sentence, other cases of web piracy might never get to court.
The 27-year old at the centre of the case is accused of having the film Hipp Hipp Hora on his computer, which he allowed others to download. If convicted, he could face up to two years imprisonment.
The case was brought after a tip off from Antipiratbyrån (APB), a lobby organization set up by the media industry to combat illegal downloading in Sweden. Since the man was reported APB has found itself in hot water, with an Internet company accusing the organization itself of illegally downloading films and games.
Uppsala prosecutor Katrin Rudström says that this is a vital test case, and that the result will have big implications for future prosecutions. She told Aftonbladet that if the case resulted only in a fine, it was unlikely that other file sharers would be prosecuted in the future. This was partly due, she said, to the fact that police would not have the right to demand information about which computers were sharing their files if the crime was only punishable by financial penalties.
“As these cases do not involve criminals, but instead quite ordinary people who share their files, any prison sentence would certainly be suspended,” Rudström said.
The case comes as Sweden’s legislators prepare to debate a new copyright law that would make it clearer that unauthorised downloading of copyrighted material is illegal. Yet Justice Minister Thomas Bodström has made it clear that enforcing the new law will not be a priority area for the police.
Meanwhile, the opposition Center Party has said that downloading should be allowed, and the law should focus on those who spread material rather than those who download it.
“It is, for example, a breach of copyright laws to copy a music book, but it is not illegal to receive or use the copied book,” said the party’s legal affairs spokesman, Johan Linander. “It should be no more complicated than that in the digital arena,” he added.
The Center Party will not be able to block the law on its own, although Linander said that he would argue his case when the centre-right alliance to which the party belongs meets in April.