TorrentFreak reports on a somewhat unexpected end to a criminal case against an (oddly unnamed) 50-year-old Swedish man who was accused of and admitted
to running the servers for the topsite known as Devil. As anti-piracy folks always like to remind us, topsites "sit at the top of the piracy pyramid" in the warez scene, as that's where pirated content is usually first leaked, before making its way out to the wider internet. In this case, investigators seized the actual servers with 250 terabytes of content and arrested the guy who ran all the servers out of his home. Slam dunk case, right? So that's the odd part: He ended up receiving just probation
and some community service.
Given the scale of the case it was expected that punishments would be equally harsh but things did not play out that way.
Despite admitting that he operated servers at his home and in central Stockholm and the court acknowledging that rightsholders had suffered great damage, the man has just been sentenced to probation and 160 hours of community service.
The article admits that the guy may still face civil trials which could come with huge damages, but it's instructive to look at the results of the criminal case here and compare it to another case.
Remember, this is the same country that sued four guys who were no longer associated with The Pirate Bay -- which hosted no infringing content and was more of a search engine -- and not only found them guilty, but gave them jail sentences
and millions of dollars in fines.
That seems... weird. The case against this topsite operator seems like exactly the kind of case that's actually a slam dunk. It's not going against a third party or intermediary. It's going against the people actually doing the infringing. One can question whether it's a worthwhile business strategy, but the legal strategy against this guy seems to make perfect sense -- as compared to the weird nonsensical legal strategy against The Pirate Bay -- which, again, hosted no infringing content and only acted as a search engine.
So why the different results?
If you've ever watched the documentary about the trial, TPB AFK
, it quickly becomes clear that a big part of the trial against the four people loosely associated with the site was more about the fact that they didn't "respect the system." The situation with Peter Sunde is particularly striking. He had really, really strong legal arguments for why he was innocent. Beyond the fact that the site didn't host any infringing content, his role was as a spokesperson for the site, and he had little to do with the site's actual operations. But -- and this is the important part -- he recognized the whole trial was a joke and treated it as such
, making fun of the proceedings and of the lawyers and judges for not understanding very basic things about how the internet worked.
To some extent, you could argue that he and the others were convicted for being smartasses
in responding to the "very serious" lawsuit from a bunch of lawyers who clearly didn't understand the technological issues at play.
However, in this case -- involving an actual infringer
where it was quite clear that he was, in fact, breaking the law -- things were different. This guy cooperated
and treated "the system" with the deference it thinks it deserves:
According to Mitti.se, two key elements appear to have kept the man’s punishment down. Firstly, he cooperated with police in the investigation. Secondly – and this is a feature in many file-sharing prosecutions – the case simply dragged on for too long
The Pirate Bay case dragged on for quite a long time as well. Yet it still ended with huge fines and jail time. It's hard to look at the results of the two cases as anything other than the tax one pays for actually calling out a ridiculous system for being ridiculous, rather than sucking up to the system whose own credibility is called into question.
I'm a big supporter in the idea
of an impartial judicial system with due process, and especially the idea that the judicial system is "blind" to all but the facts before it. But we all know that's an ideal that is too frequently not met. The widely different results in these two cases further highlights that divide. Play along with the system and get a slap on the wrist -- even if your actual activities clearly violate the law. Don't play along and mock the system, get a huge sentence -- even if your actions don't actually violate the law. In the end, all that seems to matter is the "proper respect" for a system whose own actions shows it deserves none.