Page last updated at 01:07 GMT, Friday, 17 April 2009 02:07 UK

Pirate Bay awaits trial verdict

By Darren Waters
Technology editor, BBC News website

Gottfrid Svartholm Varg (C) and Peter Sunde, (R) from The Pirate Bay
The Pirate Bay founders will receive a verdict on Friday

Four men behind the Swedish-based file-sharing website The Pirate Bay are awaiting a verdict in a criminal case over alleged copyright infringement.

Frederik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, Carl Lundstrom and Peter Sunde are accused of aiding illegal file-sharing.

Earlier this week, co-defendant Peter Sunde told BBC News: "We are quite confident we are going to win."

Mr Sunde said the site would continue operating even if he and his three co-defendants were found guilty.

The Pirate Bay is the world's most high profile file-sharing website and was set up in 2003 by anti-copyright organisation Piratbyran, but for the last five years it has been run by individuals.

Millions of files are exchanged using the service every day.

No copyright content is hosted on The Pirate Bay's web servers; instead the site hosts "torrent" links to TV, film and music files held on its users' computers.

Transfer files

The file-sharing program BitTorrent, which is a legal piece of software, uses the torrent links to manage the transfer of files online between those who have parts of the data and those who need parts of the data.

Representatives of the movie, music and video games industry are seeking about 115 million kronor (£9.35m) in damages and interest for losses incurred from tens of millions of illegal downloads facilitated by the site.

Critics of the trial say Swedish authorities only brought the case because of pressure from the US film industry.

The four men are charged with "assisting making available copyright material". A higher charge of "assisting copyright infringement" was dropped on day two of the trial.

The four men have consistently said their actions are legal under Swedish law because they offer a service that can be used in both a legal and illegal manner.

'Don't share'

Mr Sunde told BBC News: "We still don't think we have done anything illegal under Swedish law.

"We don't share any files; we just link to material. There's no difference between us and Google"

The most fundamental legal question to answer is were they grossly negligent if they continued to offer the service once they knew it was being used to infringe copyright
Daniel Westman, legal researcher

He said even if the four men were found guilty the website would continue operating.

"The Pirate Bay will continue. Nothing is going to happen if we lose, for a multitude for reasons, not least because we will immediately appeal."

John Kennedy, chairman of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industries, representing record firms around the world, told the Swedish court that The Pirate Bay had done "significant damage to the music industry as a whole".

The four defendants face fines and possible imprisonment, if found guilty.

Daniel Westman, a researcher in law and technology at the University of Stockholm, said he expected at least two of the defendants to be found guilty.

"Carl Lundstrom supplied money to the site so maybe he will be found not guilty. That is far from aiding and abetting copyright infringement."

He said the case hinged on the question of intent.

Big argument

"Their big argument in defence is that they are doing exactly the same as Google; that is, simply linking to files.

"The most fundamental legal question to answer is were they grossly negligent if they continued to offer the service once they knew it was being used to infringe copyright.

"It is a hard question and from a legal and political sense the question is to what standard do you ask a prosecutor to show intent?"

Prosecutor Hakan Roswall has rejected claims there is not enough evidence to convict the defendants, saying the site provides three services that are essential for the users to be able to share files of copyright protected material.

The verdict on Friday is likely to be appealed by the losing side and the judge could also decide to request advice from the European Court of Justice before making a decision.

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