Sweden’s Biggest File-Sharing Case Goes to Retrial

A court case involving a man who allegedly made 23,000 music tracks and 30 movies available on file-sharing networks will go to a retrial. The outcome of the case could decide if, in the future, police are entitled to raid file-sharers homes in pursuit of evidence.

According to a report in The Local, Sweden’s biggest court case against a single file-sharer has been ordered to a retrial.

A 31 year old man from Linköping, Sweden was initially charged with making 23,000 music tracks, 30 movies and an ‘educational item’ available for download. However, doubts surrounding Sweden’s Anti-Piracy Agency’s (APB) use of questionable investigative techniques forced the prosecutor to withdraw most of the charges, apart from those relating to the movies.

TorrentFreak spoke with Rick Falkvinge, leader of the Swedish Pirate Party, who commented on the case: “The public prosecutor dropped the bulk of the charges but the record industry decided to pick up the dropped ball and press ahead as a private criminal charge (‘enskilt Ã¥tal’), meaning they have to act as a prosecutor themselves before a judge and jury.”

Speaking for the IFPI, Lars Gustafsson said: “We maintain that the technical evidence is sufficient. We have received an inquiry from the court if we would like to continue with the music file-sharing as its own indictment and we have said we would”

The court did not feel the need to allow a judgement based on the reduced charges in the case of the movies, and ordered a retrial.

“It is remarkable that public funds are spent on redoing the trial despite the fact that the public prosecutor decided to drop most of the charges,” Rick Falkvinge told TorrentFreak. “The record industry frequently states they have no desire to become a private police force, but these days, it looks like they more frequently put their foot than their money where their mouth is.”

Of additional interest is that this case reflects other file-sharing situations around Europe as it wrestles over the legal status of non-commercial file-sharing cases. Currently, illegal file-sharing is treated as a civil law issue in most of Europe, (there are exceptions) but the pressure from organizations such as the IFPI suggests they would love to bring it into the criminal domain. A conviction in this case resulting in prison time and financial penalties opens up the possibility that police searches could be carried out in search of evidence against petty file-sharers, something which is forbidden at the moment.

New European data retention laws which came into play on January 1st 2008, also open up the serious concern that data gathered for the purpose of fighting criminal cases (organized crime, terrorism etc), could be misused to provide evidence in civil cases. Fortunately, the debate in Germany has addressed this issue early, after the music industry demanded access to the data to threaten file-sharers. German Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries declared that the data could only be used by the police and prosecutors office, keeping the application of such data firmly in the criminal domain.

In the Swedish case, although the removal of the other charges relating to the thousands of music files is likely to be a relief, those relating to the 30 movies still have the potential to be quite financially punishing . In June 2006 a 26-year old man was found guilty of uploading a single movie using Direct Connect, which cost him a 16,000 kronor fine ($2,500).

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