File-sharing website set for court battle with Hollywood

A Swedish courtroom is set on Monday to become the scene of a showdown between lawyers representing big music and film companies and the operators of a popular website that allegedly acts as a hub for illegal file sharing, dpa reported.

Four men face charges as accessories in violating copyright law, helping others "breach copyright laws" and of making illegal gains by selling advertisements on the Pirate Bay website.

The Pirate Bay website was temporarily shut down in June 2006. Its backers said it was a not-for-profit group and did not store copyrighted material, but only offered a search engine for users who exchange music, films and computer games.

The website has long angered music and movie companies. Of the 33 alleged cases of copyright infringement against it, 20 were related to music and nine to films, including Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Prosecutor Hakan Roswall has called for a fine of 1.2 million kronor (147,000 dollars).

Additionally, the four - Fredrik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, Peter Sunde and Carl Lundstrom - also risk a two-year jail term and sizeable demands for compensation from music and film companies.

One of the four, Peter Sunde, told dailySvenska Dagbladet he was certain of an acquittal, "I don't see how they can put us in jail. And a fine doesn't matter, since we don't have any money."

Evidence included e-mails, data traffic lists, interviews with the four suspects and information from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) and the Anti-Piracy Agency formed by Swedish film and computer game producers and distributors.

"The Pirate Bay's business model is a threat to production of culture and developing new business models and serious online services," Ludvig Werner, head of the Swedish branch of IFPI, said.

Interest in the case is high. That contributed to public broadcaster SVT's decision to stream audio from the courtroom to the internet during the proceedings. Pirate Bay also planned to offer a link with live blog updates.

Supporters of file sharing have posted messages on the internet to gather at the courthouse to hear speeches from, among others, members of the Pirate Party, which ran in the 2006 parliamentary elections.

The party, which failed to clear the 4-per-cent parliamentary hurdle, wants to change intellectual property laws.

The widespread use of the internet and high-speed connections has fuelled downloading in Sweden.

A book was recently published in Sweden about the rise of the site and file sharers. It was hardly a surprise that the book, The Pirates: The Swedish file-sharers That Plundered Hollywood, was available on the Pirate Bay website - even before its official release.

"The pirates are very different. What they share in common is that they regard the internet as a meeting place, not technology," co- author Anders Rydell told Svenska Dagbladet.

"File sharing is today's youth protest," he added.

The Pirate Bay website is estimated to have some 20 million users. According to a geo-tracking map, the majority of users are in China and other parts of Asia with some 2 per cent in Sweden.

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