The four people involved in running The Pirate Bay, one of the most widely used BitTorrent trackers for music, movies and software, have been found guilty by the Stockholm district court of being accessories to crimes against copyright law. The court handed down its verdict on Friday morning.
The four, Fredrik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, Peter Sunde and Carl Lundström, were each sentenced to one year in prison, as the prosecutor had asked. The court also ordered them to pay around 30 million Swedish kronor (US$3.6 million) in damages, less than the 117 million kronor that movie, music and gaming companies had asked for.
Most experts had predicted a guilty verdict, and also that the punishment would not be as harsh as the prosecutor had wanted. They also expect that the verdict won't affect The Pirate Bay site, which has been moved abroad.
The four are jointly liable for paying the damages, which, for example, include about 11 million Swedish kronor to Twentieth Century Fox and US$54,000 to Sony Music Entertainment in Sweden, according to the verdict.
"I'm not that surprised ... actual jail time was a bit surprising," said Sunde, the spokesman for The Pirate Bay, in a press conference on Bambuser, a site that lets users stream video from, for example, mobile phones.
They are not going to pay the damages, according to Sunde. During the press conference he went off camera and came back with a sheet of paper that said "I OWE U 31,000,000 SEK." That's as close as they are going get, he said.
"Even if I had money, I would rather burn everything I own and not even give them the final dust from the burning," said Sunde.
Sunde also said that they had gotten wind of the guilty verdict last night from a journalist.
The movie and music companies are happy about the verdict.
It spells the beginning of the end for The Pirate Bay, according to Jonas Sjöström, chairman for industry organization Svenska Oberoende Musikproducenter (Swedish Independent Music Producers). It represents an old business model that is quickly losing its attraction and is being replaced with legitimate services like Spotify, a streaming music service, he said.
The case is now expected to move to the high court. Both sides have three weeks to file a written appeal.
The verdict in the Stockholm district court has been a long time coming. Swedish police raided the company that hosted The Pirate Bay servers in May 2006; charges where then filed in January 2008, and the trial in the Stockholm district court ended on March 3 after some of the original charges being dropped.
The people behind The Pirate Bay haven't exactly kept a low profile since the trial ended. Recently, the group launched IPREDator, a network service that makes people online more anonymous by using a VPN (virtual private network). It vows to protect users to protect users from prying eyes, and no data or logs will be saved, according to the service's Web site.
Additional reporting by Martyn Williams in Tokyo.