kNOw Future Inc.

law, technology and cinema, washed down with wine

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.

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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