November 6, 2012 Leave a comment
The Pirate Bay, a massively popular site where users can find links to pirated content via an internal search engine, has run up against copyright laws since its birth in 2003. Now, the file-sharing site’s founders Peter Sunde, Fredrik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm and Carl Lundström are paying the price as Sweden’s Supreme Court rejected an appeal to relieve them of prison sentences and a cumulative $6.7 million fine.
This case, ruled on October 29th, represents a wider controversy between groups which fear that shutting down sites like the Pirate Bay contribute to censorship and groups which see free file-sharing as an infringement on the copyrights of record companies. This ongoing battle between the camps have come to a head in recent years, infamously begun by the prosecution of Napster in 2001, in cases like the Pirate Bay. Are sites like these stealing from artists by not paying for the right to share the music? Should companies required to pay for the musical copyrights of songs when their websites only guide the user on where to download pirated files, or rely on peer-peer file-sharing?
In the case of the Pirate Bay, the legal victor has been the record companies. The site is now blocked in the UK, the Netherlands, Italy, and Finland, and the list is growing. According to several technology blogs, Neij, Svartholm, and Lundström feared that the United States was also looking to prosecute. In seeking to avoid litigation from the US, the site’s domain was changed from American-registered “.org” to Sweden’s “.se” in February of this year. Additionally, the site now utilizes the cloud to avoid detection from authorities. Though the legalities are debatable as to whether or not these methods prevent the Pirate Bay from seizure, it is likely that the United States will attempt to follow the international trend and ban the site. Historically, the US has been actively pursuing similar litigation suits with other popular torrent sites such as surfthechannel, which led to a website block and a jail sentence for piracy.
For better or for worse, the precedent set by the Supreme Court of Sweden in the Pirate Bay case reflects a support for record companies over expanding internet user freedoms. Nevertheless, the ongoing battle between copyright infringement codes and internet censorship promises to continue to play out in the years (and legal cases) ahead.
Posted by: Sophia Higgins
Photo credit: The Pirate Bay Makes Itself Raid-Proof by Moving to the Cloud @ photostream courtesy of Flickr user methodshop.com