Since the recently held European Election I keep getting questions about the Swedish Pirate Party and the Pirate Bay trial. I agree it might get a bit confusing trying to follow the evolving news on both, and while adding the newly enabled IPRED law to the equation one starts to wonder if, and how, it’s all connected. Here’s a summary hoping to bring some light into the current events. (Note: All link sources are in English, unless otherwise noted, mostly referring to The Register and Wired, who, imho, have been doing a very good job covering both stories outside Sweden.)
Firstly, to clear things up, The Pirate Party is unaffiliated with the Piratbyran, “The Piracy Bureau”, which lies behind “the world’s largest Bit Torrent tracker”, The Pirate Bay. For example, Peter Sunde, the spokesperson of The Pirate Bay, has never been a member of the Pirate Party and voted for the Green Party at the recent European Election.
As widely reported, the European Election was a huge victory for the Swedish Pirate Party receiving 7,1% of the Swedish votes leaving three other established parties behind, as well as resulting to at least one seat in the European Parliament.
The Soap Opera Called The Pirate Bay Trial
The two months long trial in the Stockholm district court against The Pirate Bay ended up on Friday April 17th, finding all the four defendants Peter Sunde, Fredrik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm and Carl Lundström, guilty of contributory copyright infringement. They were sentenced to one year in prison and pay a fine of 30 million SEK (app USD 3.6 million). All the defendants, as well as the representatives from the entertainment industry, have appealed the verdict (in Swedish). How ever the trial will finally end, it’s very unlikely that the fines will be paid (in Swedish), since neither of the four defendants were found to have any personal assets.
However, the entire trial was set to question shortly after the verdict when the judge in the trial, Thomas Norström, was accused of being biased due to belonging to several copyright lobby groups. If that wasn’t enough to remind one of a soap opera, also the judge assigned to review whether Thomas Norström was biased was also removed and replaced. Reason: Biased. The verdict on the matter was announced last week finally freeing him from the accusations. Correction (thanks to comment from Mike): Only the Stockholm District Court has rejected the accusation of bias, whereas the appeals court has not yet ruled on the case. Peter Sunde believes the case will be judged in their favour, i.e. to find Thomas Norström biased.
I find the forthcoming trial/trials particularly interesting in the light of the recent ruling in the U.K. High Court in favor of the eBay. The freeing verdict claimed that the company can’t be held legally accountable for the sale of counterfeit L’Oreal products on its U.K. online auction site. Even if The Pirate Bay doesn’t operate under the same country laws it surely raises the question of the responsibilities of being a distribution platform.
IPRED Law In Favour Of The Pirate Bay
This is also where the IPRED law (Directive of the European Parliament on the enforcement of intellectual property rights), infringing the privacy of citizens, actually might come to play an important role. As Peter Sunde commented the law in his latest press conference, it’s actually in the favour of Pirate Bay clearly holding the individual, not the distribution channel, responsible for its actions regarding file sharing. Despite any positive outcome the law might have on the final verdict in the Pirate Bay trial, Peter says the IPRED law is a great threat for the humanity in terms of individual integrity and privacy. That is, if any, the issue uniteing The Pirate Bay and The Pirate Party.
The Pirate Party with its one and only agenda wants to fundamentally reform copyright law, get rid of the patent system, and ensure that citizens’ rights to privacy are respected. The party has now almost 50 000 members claiming the position of the third largest political party in Sweden, besides from already having the largest Youth Party. Be sure they will be heard. Ironically the IPRED law was ruled to come into force just before the Pirate Bay trial verdict, in that way giving a final boost to the Pirate Party in their European Election campaign. The Internet traffic in Sweden was also reported to have decreased app 30% the day IPRED law was enacted, although hardly showing any signs (in Swedish) of traffic slowing down on The Pirate Bay.
Internet, Tool For Democracy
Both the Pirate Bay trial and the success of the Pirate Party in the European Election are two very good examples of the Internet and social media being powerful tools for the democracy. The entire trial was covered live with liveblogging, twittering and livestreaming via Bambuser, e.g. the press conference held by Peter Sunde after the verdict has by so far been viewed 744 782 times.
The IPRED law has also resulted in Integritetsfonden “Privacy Foundation”, formed in April (by Peter Sunde amongst others) to provide and guarantee legal help for the persons sued by reasons referring to the IPRED law. So far no one has been sued.
The site Piratpartister.se was also launched prior the European Election engouraging people to show their support to The Pirate Party by presenting themselves with name and picture.
Voices in Sweden have been raised against the media coverage to make the Pirate Party just to be about the filesharing and illegal downloading issues, whereas the citizens are concerned about their privacy being violated on the Internet, therefore supporting the party. As being a natural part of people’s everyday lifes, the Internet needs to be included in laws as a part of the society, not to be treated as a separate platform. Both the Pirate Bay and The Pirate Party are living proofs of that.
I think Daniel Ek, founder and CEO of Spotify, pinpointed the issue well describing the Swedes: “They don’t want to be illegal, but they want to have everything at their fingertips instantly, which is what The Pirate Bay facilitated.” I do recommend the whole article as trying to explain how the phenomena of file sharing is deeply connected with the Swedish society and the way of life.
I let Andy Kessler, Forbes.com, perfectly catching the signs of the times, to finish:
“In the meantime, expect digital pirates to remain a menace to the old way of doing things.”
Ps. Happy Midsummer!