The Swedish Pirate Party faces a lawsuit if it does not stop providing Internet access to The Pirate Bay file-sharing site by next Tuesday.
The Pirate Party was warned to stop providing access by the Rights Alliance, an organization that represents the Scandinavian film industry. The party received the warning on Tuesday, said Anna Troberg, leader of the Swedish Pirate Party on Wednesday.
Her party has been providing Internet access to The Pirate Bay for almost three years because nobody else was willing to, Troberg said.
The founders of The Pirate Bay, which facilitates peer-to-peer file sharing, were found guilty in 2009 for being accessories to crimes against copyright law, and their appeal was denied. The site is blocked in several countries.
It is hard for The Pirate Bay, which since the founders' conviction has restructured its site, to find an ISP willing to connect it to the Internet, Troberg said. According to Troberg, however, what The Pirate Bay does is not illegal because they simply provide links to content elsewhere. "There is no difference with Google," she said, even though The Pirate Bay has been banned by courts in several countries because it helps users get access to copyright-infringing material.
The Pirate Party is a registered ISP that buys bandwidth for The Pirate Bay at Serious Tubes, an ISP that acts as a transit provider for the Pirate Party, Troberg said. The Rights Alliance sent Serious Tubes the same cease-and-desist letter, published by Troberg, that it sent to the Pirate Party.
Serious Tubes, however, states on its site that the Pirate Party hosts The Pirate Bay, which is incorrect, according to Troberg. The Pirate Party only buys bandwidth from Serious Tubes, she said. Serious Tubes did not reply to a request for comment.
Providing access to sites such as The Pirate Bay, which facilitate file-sharing of copyright content, is illegal and doing so is a criminal act, wrote Sara Lindbäck, a lawyer for the Rights Alliance, in the group's letter to the organizations. The Pirate Party and Serious Tubes contribute to copyright infringements made possible by the file-sharing site by providing access, the Alliance said.
If the organizations don't respond to the order by Tuesday, Feb. 26, a legal procedure will be started, Lindbäck wrote. She did not respond to a request for comment.
Courts have ordered Swedish ISPs to block access to The Pirate Bay in the past, as mentioned by the Rights Alliance in the letter, Troberg said. But since then, The Pirate Bay has changed, she said. According to her, the Pirate Party is doing nothing wrong. "The only thing we do is make sure they have Internet access. What we are doing is not illegal," Troberg said, adding that it is not different from what other ISPs do.
The Pirate Bay can still be accessed in Sweden, she noted. The Pirate Party has expected for a year that a warning like this would come, according to Troberg. "We are prepared," she said. She couldn't say if the case would go to court, however.
The threat will be discussed within the party first, and individuals that can be targeted by a possible lawsuit also have to discuss possible consequences with their families, she said. Such a decision could be "life changing," she added.
Troberg is planning to announce the party's decision by Tuesday.
Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org