In the aftermath of the Pirate Bay trial, many Swedish law experts say they consider Friday's high-profile guilty verdict severe but fair. Very few had predicted the verdict before it was handed out.
Complicating the case in many observers' eyes was the fact that no copyright-protected files were stored or distributed on the Pirate Bay Web site. But reading the 107-page sentence from Stockholm's Tingsratt district court offers a clearer picture of the grounds on which the court found all four defendants guilty of having assisted in making 33 copyright-protected files accessible for illegal file sharing via Piratebay.org.
The reasoning makes clear that the principal crime was committed by individual file sharers. This was established via technical evidence that came from content on servers confiscated by the police, as well as by testimony from witnesses who actually downloaded files using torrents on the Web site.
The four defendants--Peter Sunde, Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, Fredrik Neij, and Carl Lundström--were accused of having assisted in this crime, and according to Swedish law, it's not necessary to know who committed the infraction in such a case, only that it was committed.
During the trial, prosecutor Håkan Roswall also pointed out that very little is needed to be sentenced for assistance. He referred, as precedent, to a case several decades ago when a person was sentenced for assisting in a case of mayhem, only for having held the culprit's coat.
In its verdict, the Stockholm court states that "responsibility for assistance can strike someone who has only insignificantly assisted in the principal crime," then goes on to show how the defendants participated to a sufficient extent to be considered guilty.
First, the court establishes--through the defendants' statements and e-mail correspondence, and through letters from copyright owners published on the Web site--that the defendants all knew about copyright-protected files being shared by Pirate Bay users.
Second, the court demonstrates that through the Piratebay.org site, they offered both a search function for torrents (small files pointing to the desired file), means for easily uploading and downloading the torrents, and a tracker--the server that keeps file sharers linked while they swap.
But two further criteria have to be met to be held responsible for assisting: holding a position of responsibility and having intent.
Relying on the defendants' statements, e-mail correspondence, and accounting records, the court shows that they have collective responsibility--all having been in the position to act, and all having known about the others' actions. This is also why all four received the same verdict, though they clearly held different roles. Warg and Neij are the co-founders of The Pirate Bay. Sunde is a programmer and a spokesman there, and Lundstr öm offered technical services to the site in 2005.
Intent to swap
The court then finds that the four men had intent, as they knew about torrents pointing to copyright-protected files, and still allegedly did not act to cancel them from the Web site.
For the same reason, the court finally dismisses the defendants' last objection: a European law that doesn't hold e-merchants and service providers responsible for hosting clients' illegal material if they don't know about it.
Eventually, having shown the defendants guilty of assisting in copyright infringement, the court finds that one year of prison is fair, given the extent of the file sharing, and that The Pirate Bay's activities were "managed as a commercial project" and "managed in organized forms."
Though the verdict probably will be appealed twice, all the way up to the Swedish Supreme Court, Swedish legal experts don't expect it to be altered in any major way.
"I would be surprised if the verdict were overthrown in higher courts," said lawyer Kristoffer Nordman of the Swedish law firm Vinge, according to Swedish business weekly Affarsvarlden.
Lawyer Agne Lindberg of the law firm Delphi & Co. agreed, but told the paper the sanctions might be adjusted. Neither lawyer was directly connected with the Pirate Bay case.