After a legal process lasting more than three years, the alleged administrator of The Student Bay, a Swedish website dedicated to indexing textbooks, has been acquitted today. The court ruled that there was no evidence that the 23-year-old had created or administered the website, or had any direct role in copyright infringement.
“In Sweden, education is claimed to be free of charge. Despite this students are forced every term to spend thousands of kronor on books necessary for their education.”
These were the words that accompanied the launch of a new file-sharing site in 2008. The aim of The Student Bay was to bring to free books to the masses.
“Student Bay does not publish the course books as a whole, rather we divide them up in chapters, so that one can download them for personal use,” they added.
Due to the similarities present in their domain names and logos, speculation grew that The Pirate Bay and Student Bay were connected. There were even claims that The Pirate Bay’s Gottfrid Svartholm (aka Anakata) was directly linked with the site, an accusation he denied.
By December, Student Bay had been reported to the police by the Swedish Association for Educational Writers (SLFF) with the organization insisting that Svatholm was connected to the site. In fact the only connection was that the site had been hosted at PRQ, a web host previously owned by Svartholm.
Indeed, The Pirate Bay openly criticized Student Bay for taking subscriptions via premium SMS and suggested that sharing should be free, but by May 2009 it was a moot point – Student Bay had closed.
Last December, very nearly 3 years after the original complaint against the site, Swedish prosecutor Frederick Ingblad announced that a 23-year-old man had been prosecuted for founding and running Student Bay.
He was charged with violating and assisting in breaches of copyright law between August 2008 and May 2009, and charged with “regularly receiving and assimilating payments” from site users totaling $8,000.
But despite a lengthy investigation and legal process, the prosecution were left disappointed by a ruling from the Södertörn District Court today.
In the judgment the Court said that the prosecution had not shown “that [the defendant] alone or in concert with others had started the website StudentBay.se, whose domain was registered by another person during the fall of 2007.”
The defendant had previously admitted doing some paid design work on the site but denied being the site’s operator. The District Court agreed, noting that it had “not been established” that the defendant had “administered the website.”
The Court concluded that despite being involved with the website the defendant had not done enough to be found guilty of the crime in question – facilitating copyright infringement of textbooks.
“It’s excellent that there was an acquittal,” said Victoria Westberg, spokeperson for the Young Pirates. “We believe that it’s obvious that no one should be found guilty for only having designed a website and created a logo. It feels good that the District Court shares our view.”
The prosecution is expected to appeal.