Sweden Considers Six Years in Jail For Online Pirates

Sweden's Minister for Justice has received recommendations as to how the country should punish online pirates. Heléne Fritzon received a proposal which would create crimes of gross infringement under both copyright and trademark law, leading to sentences of up to six years in prison. The changes would also ensure that non-physical property, such as domain names, can be seized.

Ever since the infamous Pirate Bay trial more than a decade ago, prosecutors in Sweden have called for a tougher approach to breaches of copyright law. In general terms, the country has been painted as soft on infringement but that could all be about to change.

After reaching the conclusion that penalties in Sweden “appear to be low” when compared to those on the international stage, the government sought advice on how such crimes can be punished, not only more severely, but also in proportion to the alleged damage caused.

In response, Minister for Justice Heléne Fritzon received a report this week. It proposes a new tier of offenses with “special” punishments to tackle large-scale copyright infringement and “serious” trademark infringement.

Presented by Council of Justice member Dag Mattsson, the report envisions new criminal designations and crime being divided into two levels of seriousness.

“A person who has been found guilty of copyright infringement or trademark infringement of a normal grade may be sentenced to fines or imprisonment up to a maximum of two years,” the government notes.

“In cases of gross crimes, a person may be convicted of gross copyright infringement or gross trademark infringement and sent to prison for at least six months and not more than six years.”

Last year the Supreme Court found that although prison sentences can be handed down in such cases, there were no legislative indications that copyright infringement should be penalized via a term of imprisonment.

For an idea of the level of change, one only need refer to The Pirate Bay case, which would undoubtedly be considered as “gross infringement” under the new proposals.

Under the new rules, defendants Peter Sunde, Fredrik Neij and Carl Lundström would be sentenced to a minimum of six months and a maximum of six years. As things stood, with infringement being dealt with via fines or up to two years’ imprisonment, they were sentenced to prison terms of eight, ten and four months respectively.

Under the new proposals, damage to rightsholders and monetary gain by the defendant would be taken into account when assessing whether a crime is “gross” or not. This raises the question of whether someone sharing a single pre-release movie could be deemed a gross infringer even if no money was made.

Also of interest are proposals that would enable the state to confiscate all kinds of property, both physical items and more intangible assets such as domain names. This proposal is a clear nod towards the Pirate Bay case which dragged on for several years before the state was able to take over its thepiratebay.se domain.

“Today there is organized online piracy that has major consequences for the whole community,” Minister Fritzon said in a statement.

“Therefore, it is good that the punishments for these crimes have been reviewed, as the sentence will then be proportional to the seriousness of the crime.”

The legislative amendments are proposed to enter into force on July 1, 2019.

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