Court Sentences Web Designer For Creating Infringing Torrent Site

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In a case lasting more than three years, a web designer who admitted that he had been contracted to work on the now-defunct StudentBay torrent site was cleared after the court found there was no evidence to suggest he had actually run the site. But in a turnaround the Court of Appeal ruled yesterday that the designer must've known the site would be put to infringing use and found him guilty of copyright infringement offenses.

After its launch in 2008, the StudentBay e-learning torrent site quickly became associated with The Pirate Bay due to its familiar logo, Swedish roots and other alleged links to the site.

StudentBay began with a promise to bring free textbooks to students all over Sweden but before the end of the year the Swedish Association for Educational Writers (SLFF) had reported the site to the police.

SLFF insisted that Gottfrid Svartholm was directly connected to the site, but in reality the only connection was through PRQ, a web host previously owned by the Pirate Bay co-founder.

By May 2009 Student Bay was no more and last December, more than 3 years after the original complaint, prosecutor Frederick Ingblad announced that a 23-year-old man had been prosecuted for founding and running the site.

But although charged with violating and assisting in breaches of copyright law, and receiving payments from site users, in April this year he was cleared by the Södertörn District Court.

The defendant, a web-designer, admitted that he was contracted to work on the site but denied running it. The District Court agreed that there was no evidence to suggest that he had, and acquitted him.

But the prosecution weren’t satisfied and the Court of Appeal has been hearing the case.

The man told the Court that in 2008 he had been asked by one of his customers to help design a website. By way of payment he would receive a commission based on how busy the site became. During 2008 and 2009 that amount reached a total of around 52,000 kronor ($7930).

He added that since he was just a web designer with no control over user actions or any content being shared, he didn’t feel that he could be held liable. While the District Court shared that reasoning, the Court of Appeal did not.

Yesterday the now 24-year-old was convicted for assisting in copyright infringement and aiding attempted violations of copyright law. The Court ruled that despite only being a designer, he must’ve known that the true purpose of StudentBay was to infringe the copyrights of the book companies.

The man received probation and was ordered to complete 75 hours unpaid work. He must also pay 42,000 kronor ($6405) in damages. The money he made from the site was confiscated.


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