US threatened Sweden with sanctions over piracy

The United States warned Sweden earlier this year that if the country did not act to stop illegal file sharing it would face tough sanctions from the World Trade Organization, a Swedish official said Tuesday.

A swirling controversy over the closure of the popular file-sharing website The Pirate Bay on May 31st left many wondering who was behind the raid. The American government and the powerful Motion Picture Association were responsible for urging police action, Swedish government officials have now admitted.

“During the spring, several conversations took place between American and Swedish officials,” said Dan Eliasson, undersecretary of state in Sweden’s Justice Department. “During these talks the American officials said that Sweden could end up on the WTO’s surveillance list if Swedish authorities didn’t effectively combat crimes against copyright laws.”

Eliasson said it not uncommon for countries to pressure each other through the WTO.

“I know that the USA has its views on the effectiveness of our system of copyright law,” Eliasson said to SVT. “And if Sweden and other countries don’t follow its views on international undertakings there will be sanction mechanisms in the USA. This I know and has been stressed by the Americans.”

Political parties in Sweden are demanding that the government puts all its cards on the table and to tell the full truth about American involvement in the Pirate Bay raid.

Tasso Stafilidis, a member of Sweden’s Parliament from the Left Party, said Tuesday’s news was “unbelievably serious,” and demanded the truth.

After the Swedish government was warned of possible WTO sanctions, Eliasson received a letter on March 17th this year from John Malcolm, MPA vice president. Malcolm reminded the Swedish state secretary of an October 2005 meeting at which the MPA’s concerns were made.

“I would urge you once again to exercise your influence to urge law enforcement authorities in Sweden to take much-need action against The Pirate Bay,” the letter said.

Eliasson responded on April 10th, saying Sweden was in the process of cracking down on illegal file sharing, but said the government and the Justice Ministry could not interfere with specific cases.

During the spring, Eliasson called prosecutor Sven-Erik Alhem to a meeting regarding file sharing and The Pirate Bay.

“Dan Eliasson was interested to know how the handling (of Pirate Bay) was going in Sweden, Alhem said to SVT.

“Pirate Bay was the big case regarding copyright, and that, as I understood it, was what caused the USA to be worried over the situation,” Alhem said, adding that he did not know if Justice Minister Thomas Bodström was aware of the situation.