Thursday, June 01, 2006

Update on the Swedish file-sharing raid

1) It turns out that The Pirate Bay might not have been the prime target: The anti-piracy lobby lawyer and spokesperson Henrik Pontén has today publicly admitted that the prime target for the raid was the (opinion-maker, news agency and user forum) Piratbyrån website, and not (torrent tracker) The Pirate Bay! This is, in other words, testimony that the real aim of the operation was suppression of opinion!!!

2) Further, Swedish public service television, SVT, reveals that there are governmental links behind the crackdown - Swedish and US ministers had met earlier this year to draw up plans for striking down on the Pirate Bay website. If this allegation is true, this amounts to a huge political scandal: In Sweden, ministerial interference into police matters etc. is illegal. The ministers in charge could potentially go to jail for this.

3) Earlier in the day, it also turned out that several small companies and organisations (that were all entirely unrelated to The Pirate Bay) had their services shut down since the Swedish police seized their servers too.

4) The actual Pirate Bay site will most likely be up and running in a few days' time anyway, this time hosted in another country (probably outside the EU).

5) The same public prosecutor who is behind the Pirate Bay crackdown, Håkan Roswall, tried less then a month ago to illicitly close down, a Chechen news agency which is critical to Russia, and hosted in Sweden. This closure did not fell through, however, since it would have severly infringed on freedom of speech.

This all means: not only has the police (led by a prosecutor with questionable standards in terms of seeing to issues freedom of speech, and prompted by a non-democratic lobbyist organisation with links to top figures in government) closed down a perfectly legitimate political website (Piratbyrån) which should legally enjoy freedom of speech, they have also mistakenly closed down a handful commercial and non-commercial services (companies which will hopefully sue very shortly).
The site they were actually claiming to be targeting - while clumsily closing down also these extraneous sites - will soon be up anyway, this time out of reach of Swedish legislation. Today, up towards 80.000 respondents ticked the box deeming it "wrong" to close down file-sharing services in Sweden's biggest newspaper Aftonbladet's survey. Even my parents have heard about the story and think it seems dodgy that the authorities seem to have given in to American corporate interests, as the Swedish news media duly have been quick to assert, and that this could stretch as far as to ministerial level.
The MPAA say it loud and clear in their statement (PDF):
Since filing a criminal complaint in Sweden in November 2004, the film industry has worked vigorously wofficials in Sweden to shut this illegal site down.
These American adversaries might be happy for now, but it is far from clear how this will end. It seems like the Swedish anti-file-sharing ("anti-pirate") lobby is actually facing a PR disaster...... and if that's the case, rightly so.

in swedish: