When it comes to anti-piracy investigations in Sweden, one could be forgiven for thinking that Antipiratbyrån (the Anti-Piracy Bureau) is involved in all of them. APB has played a part in actions against the Warez Scene, BitTorrent trackers, Direct Connect hubs, regular file-sharers and is often connected with issues surrounding The Pirate Bay.
Indeed, the now-disbanded Piratbyrån (Piracy Bureau) was founded to counter Antipiratbyrån’s anti-piracy message, something completed on an epic scale with their most famous creation – The Pirate Bay.
Like many anti-piracy groups, APB has lawyers at the helm and few are more famous than Henrik Pontén, a man loved so much in pirate circles that he became officially renamed by admirers.
But not even the seemingly ubiquitous Pirate Pontén can do all the work on his own. In an interview, APB lawyer Sara Lindbäck has been revealing a little more about the organization and its work against file-sharing in Sweden.
Naturally, one of the first subjects covered was the recently completed appeal of The Pirate Bay founders. The decision in the appeal will be handed down later this month, but how does Lindbäck feel it will go?
“What we see is that The Pirate Bay has been convicted in several other countries around Europe,” she explains. “I would be surprised if they are not convicted in Sweden.”
However, Lindbäck cautions that there is a problem with infringements on the web because even with verdicts in hand, they still carry on.
“It is a dilemma with Internet crime that I believe we must review,” she adds.
APB has very close ties with Hollywood and shares their desire for total Pirate Bay destruction, but while Lindbäck admits that the entities share information, she refuses to comment when asked if APB is funded by the studios.
But the secrecy doesn’t stop there. Lindbäck also refuses to reveal how many people work for APB or anything about their finances. Indeed, according to Nyteknik.se, APB is simply a business association, which for tax purposes has a turnover of zero and no employees.
Lindbäck says that it is necessary to maintain a level of secrecy over APB’s operations in order to protect those working for it.
“I have not been exposed to the same [amount of abuse] as my colleague Henrik Pontén,” she reveals. Other than hate-mail, she wouldn’t be drawn further on the kind of things people do to get under APB’s skin in case that encourages more attacks.
No one would dispute that in Sweden, APB are a deeply unpopular group, perhaps because they work against such a large proportion of a population which has come to believe that file-sharing is a fundamental right.
“In Sweden, 1.1 million people constantly file-share pirated movies,” Lindbäck explains.
In a country of just over 9.2 million, that’s one potential enemy in every crowd of ten people nationwide, but move into the city with a group of men with their teens a decade behind them, things get worse.
“The typical illegal file sharer is a 30-year-old urban man with a slightly higher salary than average,” says Lindbäck.
But it’s not just APB’s general anti-piracy stance that has opponents so angry, its techniques have generated quite a lot of controversy too. While it’s known that APB has informers on file-sharing sites, there have been allegations that not all of them are willing.
A source who previously worked in law enforcement claimed earlier this year that APB had been tracking down teenage file-sharers and threatening them with reprisals unless they snitch on their friends and hand over information on the sites they use. It’s also been claimed that APB coerced FTP passwords out of server users in order to conduct their investigations.
“There is no basis to these claims,” Lindbäck insists. “None of the complaints have led anywhere.”
With no end in site to either The Pirate Bay, the Scene, or file-sharing in general, the work of Antipiratbyrån will continue for the foreseeable future. Expect to hear lots more from them, but don’t expect much more transparency.