Prosecution struggles to pin guilt on The Pirate Bay administrators

The Pirate Bay spokesman Peter Sunde wrapped up the first week of his famous civil/criminal trial with a bombshell. An internal survey, he says, revealed that 80% of 1000 torrents observed are, in fact, legal.

Sunde shares the criminal charges of assisting others in copyright infringement with fellow Pirate Bay figures Fredrik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm, and Carl Lundström.

Pressed by prosecutor Hakan Roswall and lawyers from the media industry, Sunde explained that while he was aware that the site does indeed host links to copyright material, The Pirate Bay was built as a tool for its users to post content – some of which might be legal, some not. Therefore, if copyright owners want to take down content, they should approach the individual that uploaded the torrent in question, rather than The Pirate Bay.

In fact, said Sunde, his survey reveals that there is a larger proportion of copyright-infringing material on YouTube.

While Sunde’s exact methodology for the survey is unclear, he testified that he gathered the 1,000 torrents at random and, with the help of some users in a chat room, examined their legality without downloading them.

TorrentFreak notes the trial also featured a clumsy attempt by Roswall to display geek prowess:

“When did you meet [Gottfrid] for the first time IRL?” asked the Prosecutor. “We do not use the expression IRL,” said Peter, “We use AFK.”

“IRL?” questioned the judge. “In Real Life,” the Prosecutor [explained].

“We do not use that expression,” Peter noted. “Everything is in real life. We use AFK - Away From Keyboard.”

“Well,” said Roswall. “It seems I am a little bit out of date.”

Spectators noted that the trial seems to be taking a disturbingly political tone – at one point, after being asked questions on his opinion of copyright law, issues, and previous remarks on his blog, Sunde shot back with questions of his own:

“That is a political issue,” he said. “Is this a political trial or a legal trial?”

IFPI lawyer Peter Danowsky continued with his question, but Sunde cut him off.

 “I want an answer from the lawyer Danowsky. Is this a political trial? Can I get a reply?”

Over the past few days, prosecutors have struggled to understand The Pirate Bay’s “anarchistic” organizational structure. In Thursday’s trial, prosecutors pressed Neij for details, essentially fishing for any hints that The Pirate Bay staff ran under a traditional hierarchy – to which Neij replied that nearly every aspect of the site was run in a haphazard fashion.

“Someone must ultimately decide whether to put up a certain text or graphic,” asked Roswall.

“No,” Neij replied. “Why? If someone believes a new text is needed, he just inputs it. Or if a graphic is ugly, someone makes a better one. The one who wants to do something just does it.”

Neijs’ responses followed a general pattern that is proving to be consistent throughout the entire trial: when presented with damning evidence, the defendants simply defer responsibility to someone not directly involved in the proceeding – a fiery speech that Niej read outside Swedish parliament days after the site’s May 2006 brush with the law, for example, was claimed to be penned by Pirate Bureau ideologue Tobias Andersson, and read at the Bureau’s request.

Friday evening the defendants threw a 200-person party broadcasted live on The Pirate Bay’s Spectrial website, the tickets of which quickly sold out. Trial is set to resume Tuesday, and will feature testimony from a number of figures from the entertainment and content industry.

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