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Thoughts on the Pirate Bay Convictions in Sweden

Thoughts on the Pirate Bay Convictions in Sweden

The lawyer for four men found guilty of criminal copyright offenses in Sweden is now calling for a retrial. Attorney Peter Althin, who represents the Pirate Bay, alleges that Judge Tomas Norstrom, “is a member of the Swedish Copyright Association and sits on the board of Swedish Association for the Protection of Industrial Property,” according to the BBC.

Judge Norstrom has told Sveriges Radio, “These activities do not constitute a conflict of interest.”

see and/or hear:
Pirate Bay Judge Conflict of Interest?
Domaren tillbakavisar anklagelser om jäv
The Pirate Bay sentenced to one year in prison
Fredrik Söderling: The Pirate Bay sentence is surprisingly harsh

This controversy has led to an active discussion with one of my Swedish friends. [The following is edited for spelling, accuracy, and clarity]

We were discussing the deficiencies of the various left parties in Sweden (Social Democratic, Left, Green, and various communist and anarchist affiliations).

I declared,

If I was in Sweden now I would vote Pirate Party because the verdict against Neij, Svartholm, Lundström, and Sunde. The myth of Swedish freedom of expression is seen as what it is, a sham and a fraud wholly at the whim of moneyed foreign interests. As soon as those interests are at play, any pretense at freedom of speech or of scholarship is out the window.

Pirate Bay did nothing whatsoever different as a matter of law, than what Google or the Internet Archive do. They published a search engine and links to online material, period. Not the material itself. The decision is not criminalizing copyright infringement, it is criminalizing knowledge, and the dissemination of knowledge, about where certain files are shared, which knowledge is voluntarily taken from the public sphere and released there also.

What they were really convicted of is disrespecting authority and making the “adults” look stupid and feel ignorant. Try searching on “warez” on google. Hope your Swedish police don’t arrest you for that too.

I haven’t read the court decision, if you find it please link and I will at least try with Babelfish and my Norstedts. But it seems a really horrible decision and an attack on any scholar who makes an index or union catalog of information.

I know this must be a controversy at home too. I suppose DN has my view and SD has the other? Or no, both feel threatened by new media?”

She replied, “Do you think artists should have an income out of their work or do you think they shouldn’t? Do you think the shoe polisher should get money for polishing your shoes or do you think he shouldn’t? Do you think society should pay for an artists work or should those buying it?

Enclosed is the court decision. Just ask me if there is something I could translate for you!”

I’ve yet to wade through the court decision, but my initial response is below:

That isn’t the right question to ask I think. If one goes to the library and looks in Chemical Abstracts for how to make a dangerous chemical like an explosive or poison, we don’t arrest the librarians; we don’t arrest the editors of Chemical Abstracts or the makers of the catalog of information from which the abstract is found.

Pirate Bay was not accused of holding or receving any copyrighted information. They provided services like a library or union catalog to where such information could be found. This is no different from Google or from any library or encyclopaedia.

If people engage in copyright violations then the law can hold them accountable. But if anyone who compiles a list or catalog, whether online or not of merely where information can be found, it is profoundly unjust to hold them responsible for the acts of others whom they have never met and have no control over or responsibility for.

I’m sure one could go into the library at KTH or the National Library or some similar place and find chemical manufacturing information to make a poison or a bomb. Should we then arrest library directors or the publishers of abstracts of scientific information?

If this decision stands, then Google, and all public libraries must also be subject to having their responsible officers criminally penalized anytime anyone misuses information they find through such a service. This would be profoundly undemocratic and would not, in fact, do anything to catch the actual perpetrators of the hypothetical crime.

Further, many artists never receive ANY payments from the agencies which allegedly take payments for them. The generally have to engage in protracted court struggles (at least in US) and then receive only a fraction of a penny compared to the dollars received by publishers. For instance, when court action resulted in a 270 million dollar settlement from Napster, artist’s managers complained that the artists they represented received nothing.


The RIAA which allegedly represents the interests of recording artists in the US, is both suing users and pursuing cases like the case against Pirate Bay while at the same time pushing artists royalties ever lower and lower, keeping the rest of the money for the companies they represent:

RIAA Wants Songwriter Royalty Lowered

Also, in the US we have a concept called “fair use”. This “fair use” doctrine holds that copyrighted material can be used as part of creating another artistic work (as in a collage or montage), for purposes of journalism or review, or for educational purposes. This doctrine is being very much eroded.

Fair Use (wikipedia)
Copyright Fair Use

Another common law doctrine in the US is called the “right of first sale”. This holds that you can’t for instance sell me a chair but make conditions on how I the buyer can use it. If I buy a chair, I can sit in it. I can resell it. I can let someone else sit in it. I can destroy it. I can take it apart to learn about how it is constructed. That is because I bought it.

First-sale doctrine

Further, the purpose of copyright is to grant a limited license to an author or inventor for a *limited time* so that eventually, the invention will come into free use for everyone.

“The Congress shall have the power…To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;”

US Constitution, Article 1, Section 8

So the correct question is not “does this give authors and inventors enough rights” the question should be “are works and inventions coming into the public domain soon enough to be of use to all”.

Some large corporations are standing this moral principle on its head, pretending to be acting in the interests of writers and inventors but actually paying such persons little or nothing in reality.

I do use bittorrent for purposes like updates to computer games I subscribe to, and I never download illegal material. Legal users of a legal service should be protected, and so should the maintainers of that service.

I’ll dig into the opinion and see if [it] address[es] any of these points. Obviously my reasoning and examples so far are from a very US-centric point of view.

As we say, IMHO.

see also: The Pirate Bay
Pirate Party plans election raid

Copyright © 2009 Henry Edward Hardy

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23 April, 2009 Posted by | BitTorrent, conflict of interest, injustice, law, media, news, peer-to-peer, Pirate Bay, politics, scanlyze, Sweden | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment