15 Year-Old Boy Faces File-Sharing Prosecution

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A 15 year-old from Sweden is facing prosecution after sharing copyright files online. The boy was deemed to have shared movies owned by so-far unnamed "international" film companies. While his alleged actions are clearly illegal, this kind of legal action against a teenager makes little sense and is a PR failure ready to happen.

For an old-timer like me, 15 years-old is a distant dream of a growing interest in the opposite sex but too much homework to do anything about it, a developing adult mind restricted by loving parents who prefer to keep a child, and a general desire to be older and all that entails.

It also meant some of the best computing memories ever. 8 bit machines crawling along with brick-sized modems powered by lists of random phone numbers culled from BBSs, each one dialled in the hope that no human would answer, but the comforting tone of a computer – any computer – instead.

There can be little doubt that, in hindsight, some of what my friends and I did was illegal. But the thought of being arrested and facing prosecution for our ‘fun’ never crossed our minds – my main preoccupation was the arrival of a stupid-sized telephone bill and furious parents.

Online ‘fun’ these days, more than 25 years down the line, is a very different affair, a lesson currently being learned by a teenager from Sweden.

According to a report from GP.se, a 15-year-old boy from Gothenburg is now facing prosecution for allegedly sharing files online.

Prosecutor Frederick Ingblad said that the teenager, who will be assigned a lawyer, is accused of downloading and then making available 30 movies online.

Sweden, which has a culture of file-sharing, has traditionally been gentle with infringers but following the meteoric rise of The Pirate Bay and the subsequent fallout, has succumbed to international movie and music industry pressure to get tough.

If the volume of news stories are any barometer, Sweden now punishes more file-sharers than any other country in Europe. The punishments can be harsh, ranging from fines to imprisonment of up to 2 years.

While this teenager will probably ‘only’ pick up a fine, is state punishment the correct way to deal with a 15 year-old for his non-profit file-sharing? Is it proportional for his final years in school to be troubled by a prosecution for an activity that represents normal activity for people of his age group?

One can’t help but think that a slap on the wrist is in order here, rather than a full-on prosecution. Anything other than that would be a PR failure for the movie companies.

But maybe the movie studios, in this case being represented by Svenska Antipiratbyrån, feel that an example should be set, that 15 year-olds up and down the country should be made aware that they are committing a crime, a crime that will not go unpunished?

Finally, a parting thought. While in Sweden we’re now looking at the prosecution of a teenager for movie sharing, in the studios’ own homeland – the United States – the same file-sharing offenses will shortly result in a strongly-worded “copyright alert” instead.

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