kNOw Future Inc.

law, technology and cinema, washed down with wine

Pirate Bay Defendants Convicted

This morning the district court in Stockholm announced the conviction of the four defendants in the trial against The Pirate Bay (TPB) – Peter Sunde Kolmisoppi (Brokep), Carl Lundström, Fredrik Neij (Tiamo) and Gottfrid Svartholm Warg (Anakata). A Google translation of The court decision is now available in english from the IFPI website. What follows is culled from the Swedish press and a cursory examination of the court decision (from the Google translation of the original Swedish version).

The crux of the matter is that they were convicted on one charge, assisting in copyright infringement (violation of the ‘making available’ right), and cleared on the other – ‘preparing a violation of copyright law.’

Sentences handed out were in line with the request of prosecutor Håkan Roswall in March: one year in jail. In addition the defendants have also been ordered to pay 30 million SEK, around 2.72 million euros, in damages to the entertainment companies behind the case. That sum was calculated in relation to the 33 works listed on the indictment, distributed on TPB between July 2005 and May 31 2006. Marten Schultz, an expert on damages in Swedish law has criticised the scale of the award, and argues that it highlights the error in treating the criminal liability and the  damages claim as part of the same proceeding.

Reactions to the Result

Naturally the lawyers and businesspeople involved in the prosecution are rejoicing at the result; Henrik Pontén from the anti-piracy office stated it removed any doubt as to the illegality of TPB as a site, and would pave the way for an expanded legal offering of entertainment works online. Per Sundin, CEO of Universal Music in Sweden, and former CEO of Swedish Sony BMG was also pleased – during the trial he had compared the defendants to ‘digital fences.’ Monique Wadsted, acting on behalf of the MPAA’s Swedish franchise expressed her satisfaction not only at the result, but at the written opinion, which she claimed would withstand higher court scrutiny. But she must have been a little disappointed, after all, she did request the judge to give the defendants two years each….

As for TPB, Peter Kolmisoppi held a press conference over the net from Malmo, where he declared that he’d rather burn everything he had than pay any of the damages, and expressed confidence that they would triumph on appeal. the two stream are archived at Bambuser here (nb first five minutes in Swedish) and here. The Pirate Party declared the decision a scandal, and have announced demonstrations in major cities for tomorrow. their web site has also slowed to a crawl under the traffic, and they say that 2000 new members have joined in th last 24 hours. Lawyers for the defendants were also shocked, and Peter Althin in particular was outraged that the decision had been leaked prior to its official release (there is now an investigation taking place in regard to the leak).

Meanwhile in Moscow, Pirate Bay supporters threw a street party…

Pirate Bay supporters in Moscow

Pirate Bay supporters in Moscow

The Judgement

Infringement of the Making Available Right

The court followed a series of steps in coming to the guilty verdict (see pages 56 and thereafter in the judgment).

First they stated that the works listed as having been infringed were in fact protected by copyright – this was undisputed.

Second, were the works made available without the consent of the rightsholder – again, there was no dispute on this point.

Third, had a communication/transmission to the public – a new element of the  exclusive right of ‘making available’  introduced by the Swedish implementation of the EU copyright directive (July 1st 2005) – taken place? For that right to be violated, a user must have had the possibility to access the work at a time and in a place of their own choosing. The court deemed that this was what happened in the case of accessing a work via a torrent download.

IFPI and anti-piracy staff Magnus Mårtensson and Anders Nilsson had downloaded the specified files during the period, and this was taken by the judge as evidence that the works had been the object of a communication/transmission to the public.

Fourthly, although some of the downloads took place in other jurisdictions, the presence of TPB’s servers in Sweden meant that the violations were punishable in Sweden. Under section 4 of the Swedish criminal law, liability for a crime lies not only with those who committed it, but also those who ‘promoted’ it by ‘advice or deed’ (p.62).

To sum up, TPB:

“….encouraged the main crimes by making it possible for users to load up and store the torrent files to file-sharing service The Pirate Bay provided a database linked to a directory of torrent files, making it possible for users to search for and download torrent files as well as to provide functionality through which the users who wanted to share files could have contact with each other by sharing the service tracker function.” (p.62)

The court stated that TPB was liable for continuously assisting copyright infringement during the period alleged. Furthermore, they insist that in order for the making available right to be infringed, it is not necessary for a full copy of the work to be copied, a portion of a work is sufficient. (p.64)

Collective Responsibility of the Four

There was little doubt about the role of Fredrik Neij and Gottfrid Svartholm Warg in the site, as they admitted to having taken care of much of its technical functioning.

According to the Court, Peter Sunde Kolmisoppi’s liability stems from his involvement in the flow of advertising payments and the use of his company HAIQ for the issuance of invoices in relation to same. In addition his suggestions with regard to the site development were taken as a further indication of involvement.

Carl Lundstrom’s purchase of servers, provision of bandwidth and correspondence of Oded Daniel, specifically in relation to 8.25% share were considered sufficient to establish his involvement,

The judge stated that the defendant’s claims of ignorance regarding the works listed in the indictment is immaterial to their liability – it is enough that they knew that copyright infringement was taking place in general through the site.

Claim of Safe Harbour under the EU E-Commerce Directive

The court found that TPB was a commercial information service provider as defined by the law (the commercial element being derived from their advertising revenue). As they stored torrent files, rather than providing transient storage necessary for a given transmission, they would have had to have in place a process for dealing with copyright complaints in order to be exempted from liability. They didn’t do this, although they knew that some of the torrent files related to copyrighted materials. (p.77)

He concluded that TPB’s operations were conducted in a commercial and organised manner.

The last twenty pages of the judgment explain the formula used to establish the damages awarded to the plaintiffs.

Consequences

For the individuals involved the situation is grave. The plaintiffs will begin immediately to pursue payment of damages. As the decision will be appealed, and the charge does not relate to serious violence, implementation of the prison sentence will be delayed or stayed pending the appeal. In any case, neither Fredrik Neij and Gottfrid Svartholm Warg nor Carl Lundstrom are currently resident in Sweden.

Thanks to its now decentralised infrastructure, TPB will certainly remain online.
A huge part of the Swedish population will feel alienated by this decision – out of the eight largest political parties in Sweden, seven of their youth wings support the decriminalization of filesharing and are sympathetic to the Pirate Bay. Sweden is an incredibly consensus-oriented society, and this decision, together with the local application of the Intellectual Property Enforcement Directive (making pursuit of filesharers easier), will create a significant breach in the consensus model. The hegemonic Social Democrats will pay a stiff price for this, but the most immediate impact will be felt at European Parliament ballot in the first week of June. My prediction is that the Pirate Party will succeed in electing at least one candidate. Top of their list is Christian Engström,, a former campaigner against software patents, who I’ve met, and who can probably start packing his bag for Strasbourg/Brussels today.

Lastly there will be a lot of people from the mainstram press talking up authorised services for accessing movies and music, expect to hear a lot about Spottify, Hulu etc. If the entertainment industry had a real strategy they would use this moment of maximum visibility to launch other new services, but I’m not holding my breath.

Further coverage on the reaction to the TPB decision can be found here.

April 17, 2009 Posted by | /, enforcement, law, p2p, Pirate Bay, steal this film, technology | 7 Comments

With Roger Wallis in Stockholm

Amongst the denizens of the filesharing universe, Roger Wallis is the man of the hour. A successful composer, who in recent years has dedicated himself to researching the politics and economics of the music industry, he took the stand at the trial of The Pirate Bay in Stockholm to argue that the aggregate effect of sharing music was to increase musicians’ revenues by raising  income from live performance. Needless to say, this point of view did not ingratiate him with representatives of the music industry, who attempted to question his credibility as a researcher.

At the conclusion of his appearance, on being asked by the judge whether he would like to be reimbursed for his expenses, he responded only that he would like some flowers to be sent to his wife. What happened next is already folklore: supporters of the Pirate Bay inundated his wife with hundreds of bouquets, and when they discovered that there was an excess of flowers they started sending chocolates, donations to charities and letters of appreciation.

Simon and I spent a couple of hours in the Wallis home today shooting an interview, which I will post sections of as soon as possible, as well as providing some links to his work. In the meantime here’s a photo of him at the piano playing us a couple of bars. The eagle-eyed will note the musical scores bearing his name on the piano easel.

March 2, 2009 Posted by | copyright, material culture, p2p, Pirate Bay, social cooperation, steal this film, Sweden | 5 Comments

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.

February 28, 2009 Posted by | /, enforcement, european union, p2p, Pirate Bay, steal this film, Sweden | Leave a comment

http://footage.stealthisfilm.com/

Steal The Film Footage Archive:
http://footage.stealthisfilm.com/
We have just released oa searchable collection of interview footage for the film, comprising nearly three hours of material with eleven of the interviewees from the film. For those interested in the themes dealt with in the film it constitutes an ‘extras’ package, but if you are interested in making a film on the subject, it is both a tool and a resource.

What?
We are making this footage available in high quality format (HDV 1080i), having cleared permission from the interviewees to release it under an attribution share-alike license from Creative Commons. Practically this means that you can use this material for your own projects, including commercial work, provided you credit us and make your work available in turn under a share-alike license.

Each interview is accompanied by a time-coded transcript, allowing you to navigate to parts of the interview that you wish to watch. It is also possible to search the entire collection via text query, which returns clickable results pointing to the exact point of the video where the term appears. This functionality is based on the technology used to build the searchable film database 0xdb, and the footage collection at Pad.ma

Why?
The intention behind this archive is to try and catalyze the development of a world of collaborative filmmaking, making use of the low costs of distribution and online communication. A significant cost facing low-budget documentary makers today derives from the expense of travel, accommodation, food and equipment hire involved in filming; sharing footage is a means, albeit imperfect, of mitigating these costs. It also offers the chance to open film to criticism in a new way, by reworking the materials in a way that undermines the closed nature of the filmmaking process.

There are important differences in sharing footage and sharing code, and we are not convinced that the alternative licensing approach offers the full answer. Questions remain, such as what share-alike licenses require in terms of the conditions of access to material (in what quality?), and whether it should also mean releasing the master EDL file, so that other users can learn how you achieved the outcome. But these types of questions can be best addressed amidst a process of actively sharing footage, and are not theoretical questions which can be resolved in advance.

How?
On the site http://footage.stealthisfilm.com/browse, you will find the interviews in two formats. The first is a light Ogg Theora version which you can watch through java enabled browser like Firefox and Safari; Internet explorer is not supported.

High quality versions of these files are also available for download via Bittorrent, and if you would like to rework these materials you will need this version. Transfer speeds should be fast thanks to support from Mininova.

Help!
Firstly if you spot mistakes in the transcripts of files or the website, please let us know so that we can correct them

Secondly, if you like to edit video, download some of the HD materials and let us know if you there are problems opening them on your editing software. We know that they work immediately on Final Cut, but we haven’t tried them on systems such as Premiere, Cinelerra or any others. The interview sequences are encoded using the HDV 1080i codec, and we want to be able to document problems and workarounds arising out of this.

We want to maximize the visibility of the archive, and you can help by modding up stories of the announce on Digg, reddit and other syndication sites. This is the first time such a comprehensive set of raw materials for a film have been made available under a free/GPL style license with searchable functionality. We believe that this is newsworthy and not mere self-promotion.

Lastly, talk back to us, make a film! Respond with your own arguments! Complete our film! The value of this collection will be realized when you, the prod-users, do something with it. Let us see the results. Let’s argue, Let’s conspire.

The Future
The archive will be an ongoing project and new materials will be added, for now we want to see what type of a response we get, and how much use the archive actually receives, as it has been really labor-intensive to build.

There’s more to come from the STF2 footage and other interviews will be shot. Subtitling the footage to make it searchable is arduous, and we’d love your assistance in doing that. We will also be contacting other filmmakers in this area to ask for their collaboration. The site has an RSS feed so that you can stay informed on new developments.

May 22, 2008 Posted by | cinema, p2p, social cooperation, steal this film | 5 Comments

Steal This Film Archive Release

So we’ve finally done it: in the next couple of days we will make a public announcement with a URL for the the archive of interviews that we shot for Steal This Film 2. For the moment the details have been released to those who contacted us, donated money, offered help, or assisted the project in many ways. Of course there are thousands of unknown file-sharers who helped to seed and distribute the film, they count too, but we don’t have their emails. Our mailing list is also a bit incomplete, so don’t be offended if you haven’t received the mail. With one exception all the interviews are available under a Creative Commons Share-alike/Attribution license, with the agreements of the interviewee. Thus commercial use is permitted, as long as the subsequent work is made available to others on the same basis.

In any case, I’ll be posting a lot more about this in the next days. My RSI injury has abated and this page will now be updated frequently again.

May 20, 2008 Posted by | cinema, copyright, p2p, social cooperation, steal this film | 1 Comment

Steal This Film 2 Round-Up

Just forty eight hours after the release of the film and the web’s capacity to extend the reach of media through voluntary cooperation is being made clear. English subtitles were made available for the film on its release, a gambit which has paid off as almost immediately people began translating them into their own native languages. So far there are working subs available in Russian (tnx Beast + Lord Russian Nightmare), Finnish (tnx Janne Peltola), Italian (tnx to Chiara Micheli), German (thx Christian), Spanish (tnx Habladorcito) and Portuguese (tnx Felipe) on the website; Dutch, French, and Greek translations are on their way.

As always the gang at the Pirate Bay have been a rock of support, pumping the film on their blog, adding a download link to every page and, in fact, ye scurvy dogs may have noticed that we have taken over their front page, displacing the usual pirate ship!

At time of writing it’s really paying off as there are nearly 5,000 seeds for the three different files containing the film, providing an effective speed equal to that obtainable by any notion picture studio employing global server co-location like Akamai and local caching services like Google, not bad for a bunch of amateurs working from the grassroots! If it’s not coming down fast it may be your ISP is throttling your line, ring them up and complain, and support the fight for Net Neutrality

Naturally it’s also available at Mininova, (Erik, who appears in the film, blogs about it here), who are showing it their support by deploying a high performance content distribution network to help its distribution. Meanwhile other people have been busily re-encoding it for upload at other sites such as rapidshare, but anyone who’s reading this and wants to support us should check their network of choice (Gnutella, Kazaa, eMule, Direct Connect) and ensure that it’s made available through your shared folder.

“In the universe that did happen…” Bram Cohen, inventor of Bit Torrent in their corporate headquarters in downtown San Francisco. Whilst not in the current edit, the interview will be in the archive.

Help has also come from Bit Torrent Inc. who are hosting the film on their site both as a download and as a stream (even though they’re also working for Hollywood, poachers and gamekeepers and all that). Another version is also available on google video.

Other viewers are so enthusiastic that they want to work with us – offering help shooting in different locations, to compose music, design skills. Keep them coming, it’s really appreciated and we’ll get back to you when things clam down a little.


Mural from the Other Cinema in San Francisco.

To our delight, donations are pouring in, although obviously there is a long way to go to finance another film. If you are in an educational or arts institution, please persuade them to make a donation to us or bring us to your venue to present the film.


Filmmaker Craig Baldwin is pretty sceptical about technological optimism…

eAnd in the end, we appreciate all those who have written to us with their opinions of the film – criticizing its weaknesses, attacking aspects they don’t agree with. Likewise to those opponents who have taken the time to talk to us, and lastly to those who just wrote to tell us with information, or to say they (appreciate what we’ve done), (will spread the word), and (are in solidarity with the ideas the film professes). We did it for you, or rather, for all of us!

December 31, 2007 Posted by | /, cinema, copyright, steal this film | 5 Comments