Four men charged with running and financing the file-sharing site The Pirate Bay were found guilty Friday by a court in Sweden and sentenced to one year in prison for helping millions of users illegally download music, movies and computer games.
In what is being described as a landmark ruling, the Stockholm district court convicted Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, Peter Sunde, Fredrik Neij and Carl Lundstrom of the charges related to copyright infringement. The entertainment industry has said the Sweden-based Web site, with an estimated 22 million users, deprived it of billions of dollars in lost revenue because of illegal downloads.
The court found that Lundstrom helped finance the site while the three other defendants administered it.
The defendants were ordered to pay the equivalent of $3.6 million in damages to Warner Bros., Sony Music Entertainment, EMI and Columbia Pictures.
All four have vowed to appeal, with Sunde posting a defiant video retort on the Internet in which he states simply: "We can't pay and we won't pay." In the video, he holds a hand-lettered "I owe U" to the camera and says, "This is as close as you will get to having money from us."
The Pirate Bay, like Grokster and Kazaa, is a file-sharing service that allows users to share files free of charge, a practice that the entertainment industry says undercuts its revenue.
Defense attorneys argued that the Pirate Bay site does not host any copyrighted material for download but only provides a meeting place for users to swap material with one another. The Pirate Bay is among several sites that use torrent technology to allow files to be shared quickly by accessing them from several users at once, increasing download speeds.
The case focused on dozens of works that the prosecutor said were downloaded illegally, including songs by The Beatles, Harry Potter movies and computer games such as World of Warcraft — Invasion.
Judge Tomas Norstrom told reporters that the site was "commercially driven," which the defendants have denied.
Shortly after the verdict, the Pirate Bay Web site had a message to users telling them not to worry.
Authorities had temporarily shut down the site in May 2006 after seizing computer servers during raids in several locations in Sweden. But it soon reappeared, running on servers elsewhere.
Sunde's lawyer Peter Althin said he was confident that higher courts would dismiss the case against The Pirate Bay, which he described as a battle between the corporate world and "a generation of young people who want to take part of new technology."
From NPR and wire services