Pirates put on defensive


The Pirate Bay Four, found guilty by a Swedish court, are not sunk yet, but experts said the ruling does send a clear signal to online pirates worldwide.

On Friday, the Swedes became the first to find a site using the decentralized BitTorrent file- sharing technology guilty of copyright infringement.

"I think this is really significant; it is evidence of the trend toward increasing protectionism when it comes to copyright issues, where technology has been overtaking the law," said Gregor Pryor, a partner and digital-media specialist at international law firm Reed Smith in London. "In a case of sites like Napster, it's dead easy (to prove copyright infringement) because they hosted the material on their servers. The Pirate Bay only provides links to material; none of it is on their site, which makes proving criminal liability more difficult."

The so-called Pirate Bay Four — Peter Sunde, Fredrik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm and Carl Lundstrom — each were sentenced to a year in jail and ordered to pay 30 million Swedish crowns ($3.5 million) in damages to the plaintiffs, which include the major U.S. studios and music companies.

The studios had called for $12 million in damages resulting from the online theft of their copyright-protected films, music and TV shows.

"This is an important decision for rights-holders, underlining their right to have their creative works protected against illegal exploitation and to be fairly rewarded for their endeavors," the MPAA's Dan Glickman said. (partialdiff)