File swappers are expected to be keeping their eyes on a court in Sweden this week as a landmark copyright-infringement trial gets under way.
The four men behind the popular file-sharing site The Pirate Bay go on trial Monday in Stockholm, accused of helping millions of Internet users illegally download protected movies, music, and computer games. The defendants--Fredrik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, Peter Sunde Kolmisoppi, and Carl Lundström--face up to two years in prison and a fine of 1.2 million kronor ($143,529) if convicted of being accessories and conspiracy to break Swedish copyright law.
Two of the defendants insisted during a Webcast news conference in Stockholm Sunday that their site was legal and that the trial's outcome would have no impact on the site's ability to operate.
"What are they going to do about it? They have already failed to take down the site once. Let them fail again," Gottfrid Svartholm Warg said, according to highlights of the event printed by TorrentFreak. "It has its own life without us."
The Sweden-based BitTorrent indexing site has defiantly linked to pirated copies of films, TV shows, music videos, and other content while often boasting that it ignores Hollywood's requests to remove them. While The Pirate Bay does not host any unauthorized content, the site is accused of facilitating piracy by directing its some 22 million users to protected movies and music.
A civil claim brought by a group of media giants is also being heard with the prosecution. The plaintiffs--Warner Bros. Entertainment, MGM Pictures, Columbia Pictures Industries, 20th Century Fox Films, Sony BMG, Universal, and EMI--seek 120 million kronor ($14.3 million) in compensation for lost revenues.
The Pirate Bay has already weathered several attempts by the governments of Sweden and the United States to shut down the site. Yet, this is likely the largest civil challenge the Web site has ever faced.
"It does not matter if they require several million or 1 billion. We are not rich and have no money to pay," said Peter Sunde, another defendant. "They won't get a cent."
John Kennedy, chairman of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, said in a statement that the case was about protecting the interests of the artists.
"The criminal prosecution of The Pirate Bay is about protecting creators from those who violate their rights and deprive them of their deserved rewards," Kennedy said. "The Pirate Bay has hurt creators of many different kinds of works, from music to film, from books to TV programs. It has been particularly harmful in distributing copyrighted works prior to their official release. This damages sales of music at the most important time of their lifecycle."
Prosecutors expect the trial to last 13 days.