File-Sharer Convicted in Sweden’s Biggest P2P Case

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A 31 year old file-sharer escaped prison this morning when he received a heavy fine and a suspended sentence for uploading music and movies. The court refrained from putting the defendant in prison, saying that the music industry needs to take some responsibility for the current situation.

After a retrial, a 31 year old man from Linköping, Sweden, was found guilty this morning in the District Court.

The court decided that for uploading 4,500 music tracks and 30 movies with the filesharing application Direct Connect, the defendant should receive a heavy fine and a suspended prison sentence. Initially the file-sharer had been accused of uploading around 23,000 music tracks, but Sweden’s Anti-Piracy Agency’s (APB) use of questionable investigative techniques forced the prosecutor to withdraw some of the charges.

In its verdict, the Linköping District Court decided that due to the large number of files involved in the case, handing out just fines wasn’t enough, hence the suspended sentence. This situation of sharing many thousands of files at once affects the BitTorrent user a lot less than those using other methods of sharing, which is probably why the music industry prefers to target users using ‘folder sharing’ clients, such as DirectConnect, LimeWire and KaZaA.

Thankfully, the court denied the prosecutor’s request to have the man thrown in prison and said that this is “a task for the government, that by legislative means or in other ways take the necessary actions” to come to a solution to the problem. In fact, the court implied that the reason it issued only a suspended sentence was because the copyright industry has to take some responsibility for the situation it finds itself in.

Although escaping prison would’ve been his number one aim, the fine received by the file-sharer will hurt. In Sweden there is a system of “day fines” that is regulated by how large an income the guilty party has. In the case of day fines, two figures are given, for example ’40 day fines of 50 kronor’ (that is to say, 2000 kronor). The first figure shows how seriously the court considers the offense (culpability) and the latter figure is determined depending on the accused’s financial situation.

He was given 40 day fines, amounting to some 10000 kronor ($1650) and must also pay the court costs of 44670 kronor ($7360).

Minister of Justice, Beatrice Ask, doesn’t want to comment on whether she sees the sentence as positive or negative. However, she commented on its effects:

“A consequence of the court having increased the sanctions in this case is that it will be easier to make ISPs give out information on IP addresses [in the future]. This of course affects the possibilities to act against these kinds of crimes.”

Morgan Gerdin, acting for the defense says the sanctions are too severe: “The District Court hasn’t observed the technical evidence. It is not possible from that evidence to conclude that my client has been filesharing. He should have been found not guilty.”

AntipiratbyrÃ¥n says the case is important: “It is obvious that the court takes the scope of the infringement seriously,” says Sara Lindbäck, a lawyer at Swedish Anti Pirate Bureau.

However, Magnus Eriksson, spokesperson for PiratbyrÃ¥n, doesn’t see any significance at all in the verdict: “The outcome of the verdict is based on the amount of files shared by this person. With more modern filesharing software [BitTorrent], it isn’t possible to see all the files that one person is sharing.”

He went on to say that most filesharers can continue their hobby without risking prosecution.

There were fears that a conviction in this case which resulted in prison time could open up the possibility that in the future, police could be allowed to search file-sharers’ homes in pursuit of evidence, something forbidden up to now. It remains unclear if a suspended sentence is enough to change the position.

In September 2007, the defendant started a fund to cover the fines. He has raised 7300 kronor so far.


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