According to Engadget: "The Stockholm district court in Sweden found the defendants guilty not of hosting materially illegally, but of "providing a website with sophisticated search functions, simple download and storage capabilities, and a tracker linked to the website [that helped users commit copyright violations]."
Sounds like that could include anything from YouTube to Gmail to Google Search itself (type your favourite film title into Google search box with the word 'torrent' afterwards). This could get interesting.
"The court said we were organised. I can’t get Gottfrid out of bed in the morning. If you’re going to convict us, convict us of disorganised crime."
Actually if anything, the Swedish crew behind the Pirate Bay - Frederik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, Carl Lundstrom and Peter Sunde - seem to be most guilty of having an almost North Korean attitude to public relations, appearing as far as i can tell largely unconcerned about the consequnces of their position on independent, experimental, art house and political/issue-based filmmakers. [edit - 1 May 09 - actually it appears Pirate Bay is(was) a happy and active contributor to StealThisMovie's Jamie King's Vodo]. There's no sign I can see that P2P piracy hurts big and brash studio blockbusters, the Big Mac and fries of Entertaiment. Unlike music, it's the independent and art-house films that seem to have suffered the most, at least as the industry currently is structured.
How hard would it have been to add a tip jar on the site so users could put a couple of quid in an appreciation in a pot that gets sent to the filmmakers - turning the Bayen into a kind of try before you buy service, that at least gives back to the good films that people like and want to watch more of. OK, pretty hard, but I'm sure someone could have helped out. [Edit - 1/5/9 - They are working on it - Vodo] But imagine the alternative - a world where the only big features made are funded by commercial brands - which is the only way a no-pay model works for feature films right now, (tho the Finnish open source propos - Wreck a Movie - seems to be going from strength to strength).
Nevertheless, a year in prison will serve elevate the founders from 'thorn in foot' status to martyrs and public heroes to the Swedish - an advanced, righteous, if somewhat surly nation - and downloaders worldwide. The film rights on their stories alone will doubtless far exceed the fine they've been chargefd with.
'Neo Nazi' funding for Pirate Bay?
It took a few moments to believe this twist on the tale, as it seems so close to the old 'your dodgy dvd funds terrorists' spin on the FACT adverts that it seemed like a bluff. But according to The Registrar, defendent Carl Lundstrom owns some 40% of the site, pays their bandwidth bills and is currently bankrolling 100 MPs from the Swedish equivalent of the BNP (which is quite a scary prospect.. click the link to see what the Swedish call chocolate truffels in every day parlance). But it's a fact that is eerily under-reported, and for the Hollywod PR machine not to pick up on it suggests that it might not be true. Either that or they're just not very good at using Google, which is also plausible. I would like to learn more, as it would be a paranoid way to explain their unconditional hatred of Hollywood, where in its aim to celebrate of cultural diversity, seven out of the eight studiio heads are Jewish. It's certainly an allegation that they need to clear up. Oh, Google tells me they actually did clear this up in 2007. Kind of.
At the same time, with or without them, if the early reports from Brendan Tate's survey of cinema going habits is anything to go by, 97% of the net-connected population download films 'illegally'. Interestingly this is the same percentage the FT found in the population who downloaded illegal music, which I wrote about here two years ago here. As I get more and more lost in Spotify - also from Stockholm's technical wizzards - the more I thank in my heart the P2P pioneers who created all those years ago a software and service that let you get any music you wanted, against the risk of prison - as it forced the industry to come to agreement on a legitimate way to have the same 'convenient user experience'. In the words of Disney co-chair Ann Sweeney piracy was a 'competing business model'. So without this pioneering, yet infringing, activity, I would not be at the point where I can pay to subscribe to a legit, near-all-you-can-eat music service, and discover more incredible recorded music than I've ever heard before. And it's so much more easy to use than the illegite alternatives.
(for the record I should say the last and only film I've tried (and failed) to torrent was Steal This Movie. I also downloaded a great mashup of the Wu Tang and New Orleans soul about three years ago. Actually I now feel more like the dorky geek who has been single for five years now, then the cool geek who has a hard drive of excellent films everyone likes to know). Tho I did just link to a list of search results for Torrents. On Google. Will I go to prison?)
That Sweden has resisted and struggled to prosecute the Bayen for so long is as much a sign of their refusal to be bossed around by foreign corporate interest, and seems quite admirable in a world where foreign (ie US) commercial interests have long been forced upon countries whose laws might just happen to be different. A quick look at the US's own history in relation to foreign copyrights is vital reading and eye-opening. Ask Louis Le Prince. But then that's in the past when different races sat on separate buses.
So will the ruling be used to Golliath Google? It seems unlikely for now, but the test case has been won. If the ruling was applied to the web majors, filtering illegitimate content would sweep up so much good content inacurately (around a million blog posts are posted daily, each of which could include or link to illegitimate work, as this blog post possibly does) it would finish the web off as a platform for free speech. It would also destroy any hope the film industry has of improving its deteriorating relationship with its current major funders - us and the rest of the paying public.
More interesting to me tho is how long the film industry will resist making the biopic about a very modern Pirate Boat (That Rocked).