Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
copyright, liability, sweden, verdict

the pirate bay

Pirate Bay Loses A Lawsuit; Entertainment Industry Loses An Opportunity

from the appeals-on-the-way dept

Well, the verdict has come down in the trial against The Pirate Bay in Sweden, and it appears The Pirate Bay has been found guilty and each of the defendants has been sentenced to a year in jail and told to pay $3.6 million in damages (less than a third of what the entertainment industry asked for). There will be appeals, of course, so this particular ruling isn't entirely meaningful, even if it's quite disappointing. The trial did certainly include plenty of theatrics, but the core question was an important one: should a site that is, effectively, a search engine, be liable for the content that is linked from that search engine, given that it hosted no infringing works itself. It is in many ways, the same question that was raised in the US in the Grokster case, where the Supreme Court sided with the entertainment industry. It looks like this initial ruling is similar, and that's troubling for the same reasons. The idea that a toolmaker can be liable for the actions of its users should trouble everyone -- especially when the tools have plenty of legitimate uses as well.

But, of course, what happened post Grokster should give you an indication of what will happen here: basically, the entertainment industry will gleefully declare victory, and make statements about how this is a major victory against "piracy." But, in actuality, the exact opposite of that will occur. Unauthorized file sharing continues (or even increases) and it becomes that much more difficult for the legacy industries to win back customers and embrace these new, useful and efficient tools of distribution and promotion. It's a classic case of winning the battle and losing the war. The ultimate problem, of course, is that the entertainment industry still (amazingly) thinks this is a legal issue, not a business model one. It can win as many legal battles as it wants, but in thinking it's a legal issue, it will never recognize how its business models need to change.

The folks behind The Pirate Bay insist that the site will live on and the verdict means nothing, but it may create an inconvenience for users of the site -- especially if other nations use this as yet another excuse to ban the site. The folks this will hurt the most are those content creators who actually do value The Pirate Bay -- such as best selling author Paulo Coehlo, who found that "pirating" his own book helped him tremendously, and who recently spoke out about what a useful tool The Pirate Bay has been. It's a shame that because some big lumbering companies are unable to change their business models that they get to use the legal system to disrupt and annoy those who have figured it out.

In the meantime, one amusing bit that came out as this story was breaking... one of the defendants, Peter "brokep" Sunde, was informed about the verdict early, and joked that: "It used to be only movies, now even verdicts are out before the official release." So... does that mean whoever leaked the verdict is guilty of piracy?

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  1. identicon
    lulz, 17 Apr 2009 @ 4:37am

    Re: No, this really is a victory for the RIAA

    The other 10 will just get sneakier about it.

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