The Pirate Bay, the most popular P2P filesharing website has been brought under trial by the recording and movie industries. Already, the 'Pirate Bus' has appeared, and 50% of charges have been dropped.
STOCKHOLM - The Pirate Bay (TPB) trial began Monday with its founders - Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, Peter Sunde, and Fredrik Neij - arriving in court on a specially retrofitted 'Pirate Bus'. On the TPB blog, Neij states his belief that the trial is a huge spectacle:
In February and March 2009 a state-sponsored spectacle will be arranged in the Swedish capital. The trial against The Pirate Bay - one of the longest in Swedish history - begins at the Kungshomen courthouse in Stockholm.
The three founders and their financial backer Carl Lundström are up against major players from the recording and movie industries - Warner Bros, MGM, EMI, Colombia Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Sony BMG and Universal. They are demanding over $14 million in damages related to loss of profits from the filesharing site, as well as 2 years of jail for the founders.
All four men pleaded not guilty to charges of 'assisting copyright infringement', asserting that TPB does not host illegal copies of media on their servers. Rather, they provide search services that direct users to the torrent files.
On the second day of the trial, 50% of the charges were withdrawn. Neij proved to the court that the prosecution had misunderstood torrent technology, and thus evidence presented by the prosecution could not be used to implicate TPB.
Defense lawyer Per E Samuelson said: “This is a sensation. It is very rare to win half the target in just one and a half days and it is clear that the prosecutor took strong note of what we said yesterday.”
The defendants themselves have little to lose even if the ruling falls in favour of the prosecution. Sunde has claimed that the prosecutors are unlikely to see their money: "It does not matter if they require several million or 1 billion. We are not rich and have no money to pay. They won't get a cent."
The founders to TPB have also claimed that the site is no longer hosted in Sweden, and that they are unaware of the servers' locations. Thus, even if charges are proven, TPB will still be up and running.
"What are they going to do about it? They have already failed to take down the site once. Let them fail again," Warg said, "It has its own life without us."
Unsurprisingly, the trial has become a source of huge media interest, with newspaper, TV, radio and blogging coverage all across Stockholm and beyond. Scalped seats to the trial have even been purchased. TPB is upping the ante with the 'Spectrial' site, which is organising parties and demonstrations.
Those present at the trial include internet entrepreneurs, law professors and social science researchers. The outcome of the case is likely to have far-reaching implications on the legality of digital copyright and how people share media in the future.