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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 October 2005, 17:30 GMT 18:30 UK
Sweden convicts first file-sharer
Swedish downloaders
Downloading copyrighted material was made illegal in Sweden in July
A Swedish court has meted out the country's first conviction for using an online file-sharing network.

Twenty eight-year-old Andreas Bawer was found guilty of breaching copyright by distributing a Swedish movie online and fined 16,000 kronor (US$2,000).

The verdict was welcomed by the entertainment industry as a step toward tougher enforcement of copyright laws.

In the past, Sweden has been criticised for being lax on online piracy and introduced a new law in July.

This case relates to 2004, before the new law banning the downloading of copyrighted material came into effect.

Prior to the law, an estimated 900,000 Swedes regularly downloaded movies, games and music.

Serious crime

The Vastmanlands district court found that downloading copyrighted material was not illegal at the time. But it ruled that distributing the film breached Sweden's copyright law.

Now we have taken the first step toward a functioning copyright law
Henrik Ponten, Swedish Anti-piracy Agency
"This kind of crime should be taken seriously," said the ruling.

"Making a film available to the public on the internet has significant consequences for the film industry. Illegal material can in this way be spread quickly and reach many people, which can lead to heavy economic losses for the copyright owners," the court said.

File-sharing carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison, but in this case the court chose just a fine as the man was not trying to profit financially from his actions.

Bawer's lawyer said his client had not yet decided whether to appeal against the verdict.

"It's a lot for uploading one film on one occasion and without financial gain," said Torbjorn Persson.

The Swedish Anti-piracy Agency, which represents the entertainment industry, hailed the verdict as a big step forward.

"This sends a very strong signal to file-sharers," said Henrik Ponten, legal council at the group. "Now we have taken the first step toward a functioning copyright law."

The decision to fine rather than send Bawer to jail could have serious implications for the fight against internet piracy.

Swedish police can only request personal details from an internet provider about who own a specific net address if they are suspected of a crime that warrants a prison sentence.

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