Spectrial: Showdown In Stockholm
For the last two weeks I’ve been in Stockholm for the criminal copyright infringement case against the Pirate Bay, or rather four individuals who are being treated as the principal agents behind the site.
Commenting on the events in court appears superfluous due to the extraordinary intensity of online coverage, between blog posts, live streams, live broadcast radio, incessant updates on micro-blogging tools and whatnot, this trial must mark some sort of a watershed. The defendants are online all day in the court room, witnesses sometimes have their computers with them as they give evidence, and the courthouse has provided free wifi. And that’s just the real time media aspect to this event.
Legally speaking the situation is pretty foggy; as widely reported the prosecution dropped half the charges almost as soon as the trial had commenced, and has generally made blunders when dealing with the technical questions – which of course are legion.
But impressive work by the defense on the technological questions will be to little avail unless the court accepts the crux of their defense, that the site operated as an information service that allowed users to share files with one another, and consequently that the Pirate Bay is entitled to a safe harbour from liability under the Swedish implementation of the EU eCommerce Directive, which protects ‘mere conduits’ who do not ‘initiate data transfers’ themselves. Or so it seems to me.
Irrespective of the result, most commentators are convinced that the result will be appealed by the defeated party, and that this case will eventually reach Sweden’s highest court. This wouldn’t surprise me, as the Pirate Bay/file-sharing issue is a primed grenade here, uniting as it does the younger population behind the defendants, and if we are to believe the prosecution, against the law. Sweden is a fairly quiet place, rather orderly, and highly consensus-focused; a decision alienating huge tranches of the youth would not be taken enthusiastically. On the other hand, the US Trade Representative and the various media lobbies in Washington DC won’t let the Swedish government off the hook on what they see as the obligation to help impede the free distribution of the movies, games and music. So whatever the outcome, there’ll be problems for the government.
Closing arguments begin on Monday, and I’ll stay on for some time afterwards to conduct other interviews. Eventually there’ll be another version of Steal This Film, a new iteration 2.5 was just released to coincide with the trial, and includes some footage shot with two of the defendants, Brokep and Tiamo, in Stockholm last year.
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