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‘500,000 Swedes’ risk jail time for filesharing

Up to half a million Swedes who have illegally downloaded as few as ten movies could be be charged with crimes punishable by time in prison, according to precedents set by prosecutors in recent filesharing cases.

'500,000 Swedes' risk jail time for filesharing

In the past, sentencing guidelines for filesharing offences have been unclear, but rulings handed down in 2011 have resulted in prosecutors developing a precedent where it has become clear when the offence is punishable by a prison sentence.

“We’re talking about 10 to 20 movies or a thousand music files, that’s about where the limit is normally when I think we’re talking about prison,” prosecutor Henrik Rasmusson told the TT news agency.

Recent rulings in filesharing case have provided guidance on how much copyrighted material can be shared before prosecutors seek to have suspected offenders sent to prison.

Despite the fact that millions of Swedes violate the law by filesharing, only a few have been convicted.

In light of several recent court cases concerning illegal filesharing, the Sweden’s justice minster has appointed two prosecutors to handle filesharing cases.

During the past year, the prosecutors have successfully prosecuted about a dozen cases resulting in convictions for file sharing violations.

While some offenders have managed relatively large-scale, filesharing hubs, many “ordinary” Swedes have also been convicted.

Penalties have ranged from fines to suspended sentences equivalent to time in prison.

“We estimate that the suspended sentences have so far corresponded to a sentence of up to one to three months in prison,” said Rasmusson.

An estimated 1.4 million Swedes engage in illegal filesharing, according to recent figures from Statistics Sweden.

Lund University researcher Måns Svensson estimates that roughly one third or filesharers are active enough to risk being sentenced to prison in convicted.

“But there isn’t any real threat of prison for these filesharers. In part because prosecutors lack the resources to investigate, and in part because there isn’t a social acceptance to pursue legal action against half a million Swedes for a crime which the average person doesn’t view as especially serious,” Svensson told TT.

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COPYRIGHT

Wikimedia ‘breaks copyright’ with Swedish statue photos

Sweden’s supreme court ruled on Monday that the non-profit internet giant Wikimedia breaches Sweden’s copyright laws by publishing photos of public artworks.

Wikimedia 'breaks copyright' with Swedish statue photos
Gothenburg's iconic Poseidon statue by Carl Milles. Photo: Leif R Jansson/TT

The controversial judgement is a victory for the Visual Copyright Society in Sweden (Bildupphovsrätt i Sverige – BUS), which sued Wikimedia at Stockholm District Court for publishing photos of Swedish public sculptures and other public artworks without first getting permission from the artists. 

“We are naturally very disappointed,” Wikimedia's Swedish operations manager Anna Troberg told The Local after the supreme court gave its guidance to the district court. 

“We view this as an anachronistic and restrictive interpretation of copyright laws. It also runs counter to recommendations from the European Court of Human Rights.”

Wikimedia is the group behind the free online encyclopaedia Wikipedia. It has created a vast online knowledge repository by allowing members of the public to group-edit entries and upload pictures to its pages for educational purposes. 

In its judgement the supreme court affirmed that Swedish copyright law does permit members of the public to take pictures of public artworks. But, the court said, “it is different when it’s a database where artworks are made available to the public to an unlimited extent without copyright-holders receiving any remuneration.”

“A database of this kind can be deemed to have a commercial value that is not inconsiderable,” the supreme court said in a statement.  

“The court rules that the copyright-holders are entitled to this value. It is not relevant whether or not Wikimedia has a commercial aim.” 

Wikimedia’s Anna Troberg said the group would now consult its lawyer and its parent foundation in the United States before deciding what action to take. 

“Our priority now will be to re-shape the debate, because clearly this is an outdated judgement. It is in no way in tune with the times that somebody should face legal repercussions for taking photos of public artworks that we have all paid for with our taxes.”