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They're Out to Get You, Peter!
In situations like this the letter of the law means very little.
The Pirate Bay's legal counsel Peter Sunde is counting on the law to save him. In situations like this the law means very little.
The TPB case is already of scandalous proportions.
- There's a cabinet minister directly interfering in the workings of law enforcement.
- There's a foreign government directly interfering in the workings of another country.
- There are representatives of the MPAA and the RIAA pressuring the US government to in turn pressure the Swedish government.
- Representatives of the Swedish government are 'summoned' to Washington DC where thumbscrews are applied.
- The infamous 'klumpeduns' Håkan Roswall rolls over civil liberties left and right as the former cabinet minister Thomas Bodström pulled his strings.
- The MPAA and the RIAA saw law enforcement consultants in the US could travel to Sweden to instruct their Swedish counterparts in fighting file sharing.
- The local 'anti-pirate' office in Stockholm is financed by the MPAA and the RIAA.
And so forth. And the TPB aren't the biggest threats going either. TorrentSpy got shut down and the MPAA won damages to the tune of $110 million.
The legitimacy of such claims has always been questioned. No one as yet has thought of going after BitTorrent inventor Brad Cohen - after all his technology is the reason all this file sharing is possible.
Sites such as TorrentSpy and TPB merely catalogue where the torrents are; they don't actually 'steal' anything. They neither house nor supply copyrighted material. Search engines such as Google could just as easily be sued, argue TPB's defenders. And they have a point. And TPB's legal counsel Peter Sunde is to this day convinced the case is open and shut - in favour of TPB.
But when this many major players are involved it's no longer a question of what's right under the law. If the law prevailed the MPAA and the RIAA would not be able to interfere in the workings of Sweden; if the law prevailed Thomas Bodström would not be able to tell Håkan Roswall how to do his job; and so forth.
On top of the ongoing criminal case in Stockholm the MPAA and RIAA are launching a full scale attack on the TPB. And their intentions are obvious. Michael Jackson, the estate of Bob Marley, Prince, Van Morrison, and the Village People have all launched civil lawsuits against TPB. No one has the kind of money they're asking for and they know it. The idea is to overwhelm and crush the TPB and make one scary example.
Monique Wadsted of the MACS law firm in Stockholm is handling the MPAA/RIAA case against TPB. She's representing Warner Brothers, Patalex, MGM, Twentieth Century Fox, Columbia and Mars Media. She's suing Gottfrid Warg, Carl Lundström, Fredrik Neij, and Peter Sunde. Lundström wasn't directly involved in TPB and that's the point: the message is 'don't get close to file sharers or you're in trouble'.
The $15 million she's asking is based on an economic model made by the Grant Thornton accounting firm.
For (illegal) use of the movie The Pink Panther MGM and Columbia are demanding SEK 225.55 times 49,593 downloads which is about $2 million before interest is applied. All told they're claiming about $7.5 million compensation for the downloads and an equal amount in damages. The trial can begin in the autumn.
Other films cited in the filing are Syriana, Walk the Line, Harry Potter, and the first season of Prison Break. For Harry Potter they want SEK 261.50 per download; for Prison Break SEK 416.00.
The Swedish 'anti-pirate bureau' also dropped off a lawsuit for $1 million. The IPFI have previously filed a suit against TPB for $2.5 million for music downloads.
Does Monique Wadsted believe such astronomical sums will be approved by the Swedish courts?
'There's a great misunderstanding that Swedish courts don't allow high damages. The typically low sums concern personal injuries. You can't get $10,000 if someone spills coffee on you. But for financial damage there has to be a reasonable compensation.'
But do you really think the four TPB defendants have that kind of money?
'I have no idea. All we've done is put forth our demands.'
What do you mean when you write in your filing that the TPB website has had so much traffic that the defendants have been able to sell advertising and 'their revenues most likely are in excess of what the prosecutor has motioned to confiscate'? Doesn't this mean you've taken their advertising revenues into consideration when you calculated your compensation and damages?
'No it has nothing to do with our calculations. We write like that in general so people understand what TPB are - namely a rather extensive enterprise.'
Do you really think all the people who've downloaded movies through TPB would have otherwise bought them?
'We don't know. But the law doesn't care about that. The law says that if you download something illegally you have to pay regardless of whether you'd otherwise have bought it.'
There are people who have their hard drives full of movies and they'd hardly be able to purchase them for tens of thousands of dollars?
'Maybe not but the law doesn't care.'
Are there going to be any further lawsuits against TPB?
'I can't tell you that today.'
'They Just Make Things Up'
But Peter Sunde says the lawsuits are ridiculous and TPB could never pay such sums in compensation and damages.
'Maybe we can pay in Monopoly money. This only shows they have no contact with reality. They might as well have asked for a billion. This is just scare tactics. They're trying to sound serious and link in to things we haven't done.'
Isn't it reasonable that they get paid for revenues they've missed out on?
'We should be sending them an invoice instead. All research shows that file sharing generates more revenues for the film industry. I look to the research; they just make things up.'
But were it so simple. Were it so simple that the intensely uncreative moguls running their grandfathers' companies could accept the current technology and find new products for new markets. Instead of holding onto the hands of the clock and frightening and threatening and alienating their customer base. But that appears to be too much to ask.
Instead we'll just crush TPB and TorrentSpy as we crushed Napster. And when there's money like this involved you'd be a fool to think the law will protect you.
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