In a criminal trial so popular that reporters had to purchase seats from ticket scalpers, administrators for the infamous file-sharing portal The Pirate Bay faced their first day in a Swedish courtroom on charges of assisting others in copyright infringement.
Defendants Fredrik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm, Peter Sunde, and Carl Lundström face accusations from a wide variety of entertainment labels and copyright organizations, including Sony BMG, Warner Music Sweden, Blizzard Entertainment, Activision, and MGM Pictures – who collectively are demanding at least 120 million kronor (US $14.3 million) in compensation for The Pirate Bay’s role in allowing users to copy music, movies, TV shows, and videogames.
Prosecution is focusing specifically on a handful of titles, including Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, season 1 of the TV show Prison Break, and the computer games Call of Duty 2, Diablo 2, and F.E.A.R.
Day one of the trial saw the prosecutor painting The Pirate Bay as an ideological project, and its administrators as benevolent computer nerds whose project eventually grew to something larger than they could support – hence The Pirate Bay’s decision to display advertisements and start collecting revenue. By the time Swedish police raided the site in May 2006, prosecution claims The Pirate Bay grossed a total of US $150,000.
In accordance with The Pirate Bay’s stance that it is innocent of copyright infringement because it doesn’t actually store any of the content, all defendants plead not guilty to any criminal wrongdoing and only two of them – Neij and Svartholm – admitted any responsibility in administering parts of the site. Lundström, in particular – who faced unrelated controversies in the past – said his hosting company, Rix Telecom, only sold The Pirate Bay bandwidth and server space “at market prices.”
Stockholm University tort law professor Marten Schultz, speaking with Wired, said the figures presented against The Pirate Bay are “grossly inflated,” and the defendants claimed that what revenue they did make only partially covered The Pirate Bay’s expenses.
The Pirate Bay leadership is attempting to attract as much attention as possible in support of its case, throwing parties, press conferences – which blacklisted major media outlets because of their prior behavior – and touring the European countryside in a converted Swedish public transport bus. The focal point of its efforts is a specially-purposed website called Spectrial, which serves as an internet rallying point, events calendar, and feed portal for The Pirate Bay’s twitter and micro-blogging efforts.
Interestingly, the trial features a number of live audio feed broadcast in The Pirate Bay’s native tongue, as well as additional tech feeds in English, Swedish, and a number of other languages.
Outside the courtroom, onlookers waved black pirate flags and held street protests in support.