Friday, 17 April 2009

Pirate Bay walks the plank

After the end of the Pirate Bay trial nearly a month ago it seemed likely that the four defendants were going to escape serious criminal charges. Within days of the start of the trial their lawyers had successfully argued that most of the serious charges were dropped and their now legendary King Kong defence looked set to save them from the remaining ones too; however the Swedish court has now passed a guilty verdict, along with a year's prison sentence for each of them and a hefty $3.6m fine.

If you're new to this story then it's worth reading some of my previous posts for a catchup.

In a fitting twist, the verdict was leaked from the court and published online a Torrent hours before the official announcement.

The original charges of "complicity in the production of copyrighted material" and their multimillion dollar damages were dropped within two days of the trial when it became apparent that the prosecution didn't really understand what The Pirate Bay actually does. The defendants have been found guilty of the revised charges of "complicity to make (copyrighted material) available" which has brought much lower sentences and fines.

If this sounds a little odd then it's because not many countries have copyright legislation as tight as Sweden's which is both the reason that The Pirate Bay started there and the reason the prosecution wanted to pursue it in that country.
Ars Technica spoke to music industry legal consultant Peter Danowsky who explained that in Sweden "A work is made available as soon as it is for sale or for hire or given away, this does not have to involve any actual transfer of the work. And the right to control availability is protected by the Act, so making available can be in violation of copyright even though no actual distribution has taken place."

Plain sailing?
So what's going to happen next? There are mirror servers for The Pirate Bay in other countries so they've not been shut down and in any case there are a lot of other torrent indexes around.
Social Media guide Mashable have reported that one funny side effect of their King Kong defense and comparisons to Google as a search site is that someone has created a torrent search using Google's Custom Search function.

The Pirate Bay defendants plan to appeal and have stated that they can't and won't pay the fines - see @JemimaKiss's recent article in the Guardian. Recently their supporter have started hacking the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry's website and sending black faxes in protest.

While I'm not in favour of mass copyright infringement, we've certainly not seen the end of BitTorrents or illegal file sharing and just like the shutdown of the original illegal Napster site lead to the peer-to-peer networks like KaZaA or Limewire, and then on to torrents, the technology will keep adapting ahead of the industry attempts to shut it down.

It's just a shame that the recording industry didn't embrace new technology a little quicker so they could have been the ones setting the pace with something innovative but legal. Tools such as Spotify and come close but it's taken a long time for them to come on the scene.