A Swedish court has convicted four men linked to the popular Pirate Bay file-sharing site of breaking Sweden’s copyright law. It bills itself as “the world’s largest BitTorrent tracker” and is ranked as the 108th most popular website by Alexa Internet.
The Stockholm district court sentenced Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, Peter Sunde, Fredrik Neij, and Carl Lundstrom to one year each in prison.
They were also ordered to pay damages of 30 million kronor ($3.6 million) to a series of entertainment companies, including Warner Bros, Sony Music Entertainment, EMI and Columbia Pictures.
The Pirate Bay provides a forum for its estimated 22 million users to freely download music, movies and computer games through so-called torrent files. The site has become the entertainment industry’s enemy No. 1 after successful court actions against file-swapping sites such as Grokster and Kazaa.
The main legal point made throughout the trial:
The Pirate Bay is a mere search engine and repository of user-uploaded content. It hosts no copyrighted files. All file transfers are between the machines of the end-users, and they never pass through Pirate Bay servers.
Carl Lundström’s lawyer said that the very Internet infrastructure was at issue in the case; all sorts of sites and services that are completely legal—such as Google—link to at least some infringing content, or allow users to upload such material.