Jail terms more likely after Pirate Bay: expert

The appeals court ruling to confirm the convictions and custodial sentences against the backers of The Pirate Bay could lead to more file sharers being imprisoned, according to a Swedish copyright law prosecutor.

Jail terms more likely after Pirate Bay: expert
Ola Salomonsson, lawyer for Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, Peter Sunde & Fredrik Neij

The crime of file sharing is currently punished by fines or conditional sentences according to Swedish law, but the court ruling could lead to prosecutors calling for more prison time in copyright cases, according to Henrik Rasmusson, a senior public prosecutor, to Sveriges Radio’s P3 news programme.

“The is relatively little precedent when it comes to illegal file sharing, but generally within copyright law there is a slew of judgements regarding conditional sentences.”

The court stated in its ruling that file sharing has become a serious society problem and that could impact punishment, Rasmusson said.

“If we have more cases of unlawful file sharing then we will start to reason in the same way that it is a serious societal problem and thus should more often receive a prison sentence.”

The court of appeal in November confirmed the sentences of three men behind the popular file sharing website The Pirate Bay.

Fredrik Neij was sentenced to 10 months in prison, Peter Sunde to eight months and financial banker Carl Lundström to four months. A fourth man, Gottfrid Svartholm Varg was absent due to illness and will have his case considered at a later date.

In addition, the court of appeal increased the compensation the defendants are required to pay up to 46 million kronor ($6.57 million). Lawyers for the entertainment industry had requested damages of 120 million kronor.

Lawyers for the three men are preparing an appeal of the ruling and legal experts expect the Swedish Supreme Court to take up the case.

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Sweden now owns Pirate Bay domain names

The Swedish state became the unlikely new owner of two domain names used by The Pirate Bay after a court ruling on Tuesday.

Sweden now owns Pirate Bay domain names
The Swedish state now owns two Pirate Bay domain names. Photo: Vilhelm Stokstad/TT

In its ruling the Stockholm district court awarded Sweden the domain names and

The case marked the first time a Swedish prosecutor had asked for a web address to be wiped off the face of the internet, Dagens Nyheter reports

“A domain name assists a website. If the site is used for criminal purposes the domain name is a criminal instrument,” prosecutor Fredrik Ingblad told the Swedish daily earlier this year. 

Sweden’s Internet Infrastructure Foundation, which controls the Swedish top level domain .se, opposed the prosecutor’s move to prohibit any future use of the two Pirate Bay addresses.

The court agreed that the foundation had not done anything wrong and conceded that it could not force the group to block certain domain names, Dagens Nyheter reports. But by awarding the addresses to the Swedish state the court effectively ensured that they will not be sold on to another owner. 

The file-sharing service was temporarily knocked off line in December after police seized servers hosted at a data centre in a nuclear-proof bunker deep in a mountain outside Stockholm.

But seven weeks later the resilient file-sharing behemoth was back on its feet and Tuesday’s ruling is unlikely to knock it off balance for long, as the court cannot prevent The Pirate Bay from continuing to run sites on other domains.

The Pirate Bay, which grew into an international phenomenon after it was founded in Sweden in 2003, allows users to dodge copyright fees and share music, film and other files using bit torrent technology, or peer-to-peer links offered on the site – resulting in huge losses for music and movie makers.

In 2009 four Swedes connected with The Pirate Bay were found guilty of being accessories to copyright infringement by a Swedish court. 

They were each give one-year jail terms and ordered to pay 30 million kronor ($3.6 million) in compensation.