File-sharing enthusiasts take note: a landmark trial was due to open yesterday in Sweden against four men behind The Pirate Bay, a popular online piracy site.
The defendants are accused of breaking Swedish copyright law by helping Internet users worldwide download protected music, movies and computer games.
Despite attempts by authorities and the entertainment industry to shut the site down, The Pirate Bay continues to make copyrighted material available to an estimated 22 million users.
Two of the defendants insisted on Sunday that their site was legal and said prosecutors wouldn’t be able to shut it down even if they are convicted.
“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 in a Webcast news conference in Stockholm.
The Pirate Bay doesn’t host copyrighted content, but directs users to films, music and other protected material through so-called torrents. Entertainment companies are seeking 120 million kronor (US$14.3 million) in compensation for lost revenues.
Plaintiffs include Warner Bros Entertainment Inc, MGM Pictures Inc, Colombia Pictures Industries Inc, 20th Century Fox Films Co, Sony BMG, Universal and EMI.
Peter Sunde, another defendant, said there was no grounds for the damages.
“They won’t get a cent,” he said.
The other defendants are Fredrik Neij and Carl Lundstrom.
The four men are charged with accessory and conspiracy to break Swedish copyright law. If convicted, they could face up to two years in prison.
John Kennedy, chairman of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, said the case was about protecting artists.
“The Pirate Bay has hurt creators of many different kinds of works, from music to film, from books to TV programs,” he said in a statement. “It has been particularly harmful in distributing copyrighted works prior to their official release.”
The case stems from May 31, 2006, when police raided 10 different locations in central Sweden, seizing servers and computer equipment and temporarily shutting down the site.
Evidence in the case includes witness testimony, e-mails between the suspects and invoices sent to advertisers.