Fireworks erupt over prof’s qualifications

The Pirate Bay trial was interrupted several times on Thursday following a heated exchange between a Swedish media professor and record industry lawyers.

Even before he began his testimony, Roger Wallis, a composer and emeritus professor of media at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), chastised lawyers for the entertainment industry after learning that one of them had called his boss to question the quality of Wallis’s research.

“I know I’m supposed to remain calm but this really bothers me. If that’s what happened, I don’t like it,” he said.

Wallis proceeded to cast doubt on claims by the record industry that there is a clear link between increased file sharing and decreased music sales.

“There are so many other factors which can affect album sales and the research shows that many downloaders actually consume more culture than others,” he told the court.

Wallis then argued that the music industry is against file sharing because it destroys their current business model as people spend more money on concert tickets and less buying records.

“There’s nothing to indicate that people who download music would run out and buy records if file sharing disappeared, that’s ridiculous,” he said.

According to Wallis, record sales have dropped recently, while the music industry as a whole has grown immensely and artists’ income from concerts has risen.

“It’s quaint when people from the record industry claims that downloading is theft from copyright holders. It’s quite the opposite and has led to the biggest transfer of resources to artists ever,” he said.

Wallis was also asked who he thought stood to lose from file sharing.

“Primarily CD manufacturers, just like the piano manufacturers had it tough when the record player came along,” he said.

Facing questions from Peter Danowsky, lawyer for music industry association IFPI, Wallis was put on the defensive when asked about his qualifications.

After questioning whether Wallis was a full professor or simply an adjunct, Danowsky than asked him to tell the court what the title of his dissertation was.

“I don’t remember exactly, I can check my records,” he said, becoming agitated.

Danowsky continued pressing Wallis about his qualifications, explaining to the chief judge that the professor’s knowledge of the subject matter was relevant to the case.

“What are you so worried about?” Wallis asked Danowsky.

“I’m not worried, it’s you who ought to be worried,” replied IFPI’s lawyer, prompting defence attorney Peter Althin to react to what he perceived as an attack by Danowsky.

The atmosphere became so charged that the chief judge broke in and ordered a short break to allow everyone time to regain their composure.

“What people! God bless Sweden,” shouted Wallis as he left the courtroom.

After proceedings had resumed, Danowsky inquired about Wallis’s views about copyright.

“I think it’s a solution which has solved problems in previous situations,” replied the professor.

“Is that an ideological or political assessment you made just now?”

“That’s my research. We’ve seen it happen before, and it will happen again. Don’t put political words in my mouth,” said Wallis.

As the trial concluded, the defence attorneys made reference to an EU directive on e-commerce which they believe has bearing on the charges against their clients.

They want the court to seek guidance from the European Court of Justice to determine whether or not The Pirate Bay should be considered a search engine and whether or not the site should then be held responsible for the contents of its search results.

If the Swedish court chooses to turn to the EU for guidance in the matter, the case against The Pirate Bay may drag on for up to two more years.

But Danowsky didn’t believe an EU ruling was necessary.

“And I don’t think either that the court will approve it,” he told the TT news agency.