Earlier this year, we blogged about a shampoo ad that was running in the Swedish subway. A Pi hooked up to a motion sensor triggered a video effect on a billboard, so the model’s hair blew around in what looked like a response to the wind created every time a train came into the station.
Swedish ad agency Garberg have done something similar to that original project – but this time something’s different (and all their work on this ad has been pro bono). This has become the most-viewed video in Sweden this week, and it brought us all up short. We think it’ll have the same effect on you.
After becoming almost synonymous with file-sharing and its connections with The Pirate Bay, Sweden began escalating its efforts to stamp out online piracy.
As a result, during the past several years many file-sharers were targeted by anti-piracy groups looking to send a message to the masses. And with government providing additional funding, increasingly police became involved in joint operations.
After a period of dealing with smaller cases, Swedish police have just charged a man for illegally making available large amounts of copyrighted material. According to their intellectual property division, the suspect “intentionally or by gross negligence” unlawfully made films available on 2,250 occasions.
The police add that the individual acted “in consultation or concert with other persons, supplied, installed, programmed, maintained, funded and otherwise administered and managed” the file-sharing network from where the infringements were carried out.
The charges are the result of an investigation initially carried out by Rights Alliance, the anti-piracy group previously known as Antipiratbyran. It’s been revealed they’re representing six major studios in the case, so the usual Hollywood giants will be directly involved.
Few additional details have been made public but after contacting lawyer Henrik Pontén at Rights Alliance, TorrentFreak has learned that the charges relate to a raid carried out in 2010 against “The Scene”, the collection of servers and individuals which inhabit the top of the so-called piracy pyramid.
The case involves a so-called ‘topsite’ known as ‘Devil’ which at the time was claimed to carry between 200 and 250 terabytes of media. During the raid, which according to Scene sources took place December 15, 2010, police seized a dozen servers and detained one person.
In press releases following the police action it was claimed that the man was responsible for the unauthorized distribution of “tens of thousands” of mainly Hollywood movies. Those estimates appear to have been rounded down.
An element of the case that remains a mystery for now surrounds the prosecution’s current claims that the man made the movies available “to the public”. Topsites tend not to deliberately distribute movies outside of their immediate circles for security reasons.
Alleged “super hacker” Gottfrid Svartholm is currently being held in a Danish prison on suspicion of hacking into the computers of IT company CSC.
After being extradited to Denmark from Sweden in 2013, next month he will go to trial.
In recent weeks Danish authorities have been attempting to round up witnesses to ensure they attend the Frederiksberg court during September. It’s unclear how many there are, but TorrentFreak has learned at least one won’t be attending.
John, who has asked us not to use his real name, is a former colleague of Gottfrid who lives and works in Cambodia. TorrentFreak previously confirmed his identity and the fact that he and Gottfrid did business together. In April he received a surprise telephone call which led to an unsettling series of events involving Danish police.
Several months later and John is again being put under pressure. Following suspicions he was being watched, John received an anonymous tipoff that he had been placed on the prosecution’s witness list against Gottfrid. Sure enough, on Wednesday Jens Jorgensen from the Danish police, one of the people who traveled to Cambodia to question John, telephoned John to register him as a witness.
John and Jorgensen then exchanged emails in which the former expressed bemusement at why the prosecution would want to use his evidence when it actually supports the position of Gottfrid Svartholm.
“I fail to see how anything I previously said to you could be used in this case against [Gottfrid]. As I told you, lots of people had access to [Gottfrid's] computer,” John wrote.
“Why on earth would you want me to testify against him when you know full well that I don’t believe he committed this crime based on what little information I have?”
In his early days of detention Gottfrid was kept in solitary confinement, something which enraged Wikileaks’ Julian Assange and prompted complaints from Gottfrid’s mother Kristina to Amnesty. This treatment is also a big issue with John.
“Gottfrid’s previous prolonged, extrajudicial solitary confinement in your country very clearly meets the United Nations definition of torture, and I find it utterly troubling,” John told Jorgensen.
“With that in mind, I am deeply concerned about the prospect of being a part of something that is so clearly unethical if not outright illegal. Is there some sort of legal equivalent of being a conscientious objector to trials? If so, I would consider myself a conscientious objector to this one, the whole thing disgusts me whether he committed the crime or not.”
Clearly, traveling half way around the world to assist the prosecution in a high profile trial against someone you believe is innocent is problematic enough, but John also has serious concerns about the legal issues involved.
“Will I be offered access to a lawyer at any point during all of this? he asked Jorgensen.
“So far I’ve been threatened with force by a man claiming to be a Swedish policeman, made to answer a bunch of questions, and now I’m being asked to make a decision about legal matters. I’d really like access to a lawyer so I can make informed decisions about this, but I can’t afford one as I got fired from my job the day after you came to see me.”
In addition to visiting John, Danish police also visited John’s employer when they visited Cambodia earlier this year. He was fired less than 24 hours later but was fortunate to find new employment.
In his response, Jorgensen confirmed that attending the trial is a voluntary act and no one will force John to attend. He also informed John that if he needs legal advice, he’ll have to pay for it himself. Nevertheless, the summons was issued.
The summons states that traveling expenses will be reimbursed and if necessary John will be provided with a hotel room in Denmark. He is also offered DKK 40 for every two hours he’s away from home or work – that’s roughly $3.50 per hour. If that isn’t enough the police say that more money may be available, but in John’s case that probably won’t be needed.
“I respectfully refuse your invitation and can confirm that I have no intention of appearing in court, at least until you clarify your motives for requesting me to do so, and until you provide access to appropriate legal advice so that I can make an informed decision,” John concludes.
A copy of the summons can be found below – note that while Gottfrid Svartholm is accused of only “white collar” offenses, the contact address is the Public Prosecutor’s Department of Violent Crime.
More than two months have passed since former Pirate Bay spokesman and co-founder Peter Sunde was arrested on a farm in Sweden by a specialist police unit.
Sunde was transferred to Västervik Norra, the high security prison facility where he is serving the eight-month jail sentence that was handed down in 2012.
Despite the sentencing Sunde has always maintained his innocence. He utilized all legal means at his disposal to fight back, and emphasized that his role in The Pirate Bay didn’t warrant being branded a criminal.
This view is shared by many people including Julia Reda, the new Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for the Pirate Party. Reda will be visiting Sunde in prison later today to send her support, and points out that he shouldn’t be there in the first place.
“I am visiting Peter Sunde in prison today to express my support. The unnecessarily harsh sentence he was given illustrates that our justice system has completely lost touch with digital culture,” Reda says.
“The tactic of draconian deterrence against file sharing has failed!” she adds.
During her visit the MEP also plans to ask Sunde about his conditions. The Pirate Bay founder previously requested a transfer to a lower security facility as he was losing weight and coping with psychological issues due to his circumstances.
Sunde’s sentencing is a result of a failed witch hunt against online piracy, Reda argues. Instead of embracing those who explore new technologies and business models, authorities have wrongly opted to crack down on people such as Sunde.
The MEP believes that the focus should be on deterrence, with authorities doing more to encourage and assist content creators to develop business models that can compete with piracy.
Reda notes that several founders of file-sharing services have become successful entrepreneurs. The developers behind Kazaa later brought Skype and Rdio, and Napster’s Sean Parker served as the first president of Facebook.
Sunde is also a digital pioneer, and actively involved in several startups including the micro-donation service Flattr and the encrypted chat application Heml.is. His contributions to these projects have been halted now, which is not the right way to go according to the MEP.
“I am saddened by the fact that Sweden has chosen to jail this digital pioneer in an attempt to make an example of him,” she says.
We hope to have more details of the MEP’s visit and Sunde’s outlook on the future later this week.
It’s pretty obvious that Lexi Alexander isn’t scared of rocking the boat. In an unprecedented move last month, the movie director was pictured holding up a sign calling for the release of Peter Sunde, an individual not exactly the movie industry’s most-loved man.
But Alexander is no ordinary person or director. Instead of towing the usual line by decrying piracy as a scourge, the 39-year-old recently noted that several studies have found that piracy has actually benefited movie profits. For a movie worker this is a controversial stance to take, but rather than back off, Alexander only seems motivated to continue her abrasive approach.
In new comments Alexander takes aim at Hollywood, this time referencing the recent leak of The Expendables 3. She doesn’t condone the leak, but instead looks at possible reasons why it ended up online.
“The piracy issue makes me want to tear my hair out at times. I do not understand how so many of my filmmaker colleagues have bought into this MPAA propaganda. Recently these think tanks and organizations have popped up which are not officially associated with the MPAA, but definitely on their payroll,” Alexander begins.
“But okay, you want to be mad at the kid in Sweden or Australia for uploading your movie? Go for it. Oh wait, in cases like Expendables 3 it’s actually someone here in Hollywood leaking it,” she notes.
The idea that The Expendables 3 leaked directly from Hollywood is not new. Pristine copies like these simply aren’t available on the streets unless an insider has had a hand in it somehow, whether that interaction was intentional or otherwise.
In some instances the motivation to leak, Alexander suggests, could be borne out of a desire to get even. Assistants to the higher-ups are often treated badly, so more consideration should be given to what they might do in return, the director notes.
“It’s kind of like going to a restaurant and thinking twice about insulting the waiter or busboy because you’re afraid of what they’ll put in the food before they bring it back,” Alexander explains.
“Imagine those famously abusive directors, producers or stars (#notall….) having to tone down the abuse, otherwise LOUD EVENT MOVIE # 5 will show up on The Pirate Bay with a little note that says: ‘Don’t bother seeing this in the theater. Everybody above the line was a monster to us’.”
The thought that leaks might happen as a type of personal revenge is in itself the stuff of a Hollywood plot. However, just as it’s unlikely that a story about a movie leak would ever make the silver screen, Hollywood insiders involved in them also tend to escape criticism.
In fact, history shows us that the *actual* leakers, whether that’s an assistant with a grudge or otherwise, are rarely – if ever – paraded around in public as criminals. That honor is usually reserved for the first uploaders and/or their ‘pirate’ allies. Still, Alexander feels it would be wise to keep those close to home in a good frame of mind.
“Maybe the MPAA should drop some of their $$ on PSAs about the danger of abusing assistants: ‘If you kick me everyday, your film will land on Pirate Bay’,” she warns.
Finally, in a move likely to further annoy the Hollywood brass, Alexander presents a “hypothetical” mechanism through which abused assistants could beat the bullies.
“I’m not suggesting anything, but hypothetically, if there were an anonymous address people could send not-yet-released movie DVDs to, so someone else could upload them without a chance of it being backtracked to the source, then a whole bunch of abused and mistreated assistants wouldn’t be defenseless anymore,” she concludes.
Due to the hugely controversial nature of her comments its difficult to judge how serious Alexander is with her suggestions. But, whatever the case, it’s safe to say that she’s one of a kind and likely to continue rocking the boat in future.
Every time somebody questions the copyright monopoly, and in particular, whether it’s reasonable to dismantle freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, freedom of information, and the privacy of correspondence just to maintain a distribution monopoly for an entertainment industry, the same question pops up out of nowhere:
“How will the artists get paid?”.
The copyright industry has been absolutely phenomenal in misleading the public in this very simple matter, suggesting that artists’ income somehow depend on a distribution monopoly of publishers. If the facts were out, this debate would have been over 20 years ago and the distribution monopoly already abolished quite unceremoniously.
There are three facts that need to be established and hammered in whenever somebody asks this question.
First: Less than one percent of artists’ income comes from the copyright monopoly. Read that sentence again. The overwhelming majority of artists get their income today from student loans, day jobs, unemployment benefits, and so on and so forth. One of the most recent studies (“Copyright as Incentive”, in Swedish as “Upphovsrätten som incitament”, 2006) quotes a number of 0.9 per cent as the average income share of artists that can be directly attributed to the existence of the copyright monopoly. The report calls the direct share of artists’ income “negligible”, “insignificant”. However, close to one hundred per cent of publishers’ income – the income of unnecessary, parasitic middlemen – is directly attributable to the copyright monopoly today. Guess who’s adamant about defending it? Hint: not artists.
Second: 99.99% of artists never see a cent in copyright monopoly royalties. Apart from the copyright industry’s creative accounting and bookkeeping – arguably the only reason they ever had to call themselves the “creative industry” – which usually robs artists blind, only one in ten thousand artists ever see a cent in copyright-monopoly-related royalties. Yes, this is a real number: 99% of artists are never signed with a label, and of those who are, 99% of those never see royalties. It comes across as patently absurd to defend a monopolistic, parasitic system where only one in ten thousand artists make any money with the argument “how will the artists make money any other way?”.
Third: Artists’ income has more than doubled because of culture-sharing. Since the advent of hobby-scale unlicensed manufacturing – which is what culture-sharing is legally, since it breaks a manufacturing monopoly on copies – the average income for musicians has risen 114%, according to a Norwegian study. Numbers from Sweden and the UK show the same thing. This shift in income has a direct correlation to hobby-based unlicensed manufacturing, as the sales of copies is down the drain – which is the best news imaginable for artists, since households are spending as much money on culture before (or more, according to some studies), but are buying in sales channels where artists get a much larger piece of the pie. Hobby-based unlicensed manufacturing has meant the greatest wealth transfer from parasitic middlemen to artists in the history of recorded music.
As a final note, it should be told that even if artists went bankrupt because of sustained civil liberties, that would still be the way to go. Any artist that goes from plinking their guitar in the kitchen to wanting to sell an offering is no longer an artist, but an entrepreneur; the same rules apply to them as to every other entrepreneur on the planet. Specifically, they do not get to dismantle civil liberties because such liberties are bad for business. But as we see, we don’t even need to take that into consideration, for the entire initial premise is false.
Kill copyright, already. Get rid of it. It hurts innovation, creativity, our next-generation industries, and our hard-won civil liberties. It’s not even economically defensible.
Rick Falkvinge is a regular columnist on TorrentFreak, sharing his thoughts every other week. He is the founder of the Swedish and first Pirate Party, a whisky aficionado, and a low-altitude motorcycle pilot. His blog at falkvinge.net focuses on information policy.
It’s been almost two months since former Pirate Bay spokesman Peter Sunde was located on a farm in Sweden and spirited away by a specialist police unit.
Sunde’s destination was Västervik Norra, the prison allocated to him following the finalizing of his jail sentence in 2012.
The first few days and weeks of Sunde’s imprisonment went silently under the media radar, but by the end of June the former Pirate Bay spokesman was making his voice heard on his prison conditions.
Sunde has been both vegetarian and vegan, a dietary choice that has proven difficult during his incarceration. In a letter to authorities he complained that due to his needs not being met, his weight had plummeted 11 pounds (5kgs) in just four weeks.
It’s not clear whether that complaint resulted in any positive action, but just a month later Sunde is making his displeasure known once more, this time over his religious rights.
Four years ago a group of self-confessed pirates began a mission to have their beliefs recognized as a religion in Sweden. The Church of Kopimism – which holds CTRL+C and CTRL+V as sacred symbols – eventually prevailed and in 2012 was officially approved by the authorities.
Just recently Sunde tried to exercise his right to meet with a representative of his chosen religion, but was met with prison red tape in response.
“The board of spiritual care (NAV) doesn’t have any representative for the Kopimist faith with whom they cooperate and therefore the Prison and Probation Service should provide permission for electronic contact with representatives from the Kopimist faith to believers,” Sunde wrote in his letter to authorities.
Whether this complaint will result in physical or even virtual access to a Kopimist priest is not yet clear. However, since Kopimism is an official religion, the authorities may have little choice but to comply. This throws up an interesting privacy-related question that Sunde himself mused over some two-and-a-half years ago.
“In some religions…there’s a Seal of Confession – which means that when you talk to a priest in the congregation, the priest has to keep what you say confidential. This is respected in some countries as law, where the courts can not make the priest testify against the individual,” Sunde said in 2012.
“This is probably the thing that I love the most with Kopimism as a religion – we can have yet another form of P2P communication – Priest2Priest. With no legal right for anyone to listen in to the conversation perhaps.”
It seems highly unlikely that Sunde will be allowed an online “encrypted confession” with a Kopimism “priest” anytime soon, but The Church of Kopimism’s legal status could throw up some headaches and dilemmas for the authorities as they try to process Peter’s complaint.
Pretty much every weekend The Pirate Bay replaces its logo to plug a band, game developer or filmmaker. This is part of the Promo Bay initiative through which TPB supports independent artists.
At the start of this weekend the torrent site decided to feature something a little more personal. The site currently displays a banner asking visitors to send their support to two of the site’s original founders.
Gottfrid Svartholm and Peter Sunde are both in prison at the moment and could use an uplifting note or two, the message suggests.
“Show your support by sending them some encouraging mail! Gottfrid is only allowed to receive letters while Peter gladly received books, letter and vegan candy,” the TPB team writes.
Pirate Bay homepage
Peter Sunde is serving the sentence he received for his involvement with The Pirate Bay. He’s being held in a high security prison in Västervik and recently requested a transfer to a lower safety class unit.
Gottfrid Svartholm has already served his Pirate Bay sentence but currently stands accused in Denmark of hacking into the mainframe computers of IT company CSC. He faces up to five years in prison and his trial will start in two months.
When Gottfrid served his Pirate Bay sentence in Sweden he also received numerous letters and cards. He later sent a video out to thank everyone for the support he received.
“I would like to thank everyone who has supported me in any way, very much, it has meant a lot to me,” Gottfrid said at the time.
“I don’t have the time or the possibility to answer many of the letters but you should know that I read each and every one of them and it has really helped me a lot.”
For those who can’t read the image above, the addresses for Gottfrid and Peter are as follows.
Sweden has long been a central figure in the file-sharing phenomenon, not least due to its associations with the The Pirate Bay. As a result, for more than ten years sharing files has been a popular pastime with many young Swedes, much to the disappointment of the world’s largest entertainment companies.
The Cybernorms research group at Lund University in Sweden has been in the news several times during the past few years as a result of its work with The Pirate Bay. On more than one occasion the infamous torrent site as renamed itself to The Research Bay in order for researchers to collect information on the values, norms and conceptions of the file-sharing community.
Cybernorms have now revealed more of their findings which suggest that after years of escalation, online sharing by those in the 15-24 year-old bracket could be in decline.
Survey responses from around 4,000 individuals suggest that the number of active file-sharers has dropped in the past two years. Those who share files daily or almost daily has decreased from 32.8 percent in 2012 to 29 percent in 2014.
“It is a small but significant decrease,” Måns Svensson, head of Cybernorms at Lund University told SVT.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the decrease is the mechanism through which it was encouraged. Historically, entertainment industry scare tactics have been employed to try to reduce unauthorized sharing, but the researchers believe something much more positive is responsible.
“What is interesting is that this is the first time we have been able to see that file-sharing has gone down but without that being associated with a conviction, such as the Pirate Bay ruling,” Svensson says.
“If you listen to what young people themselves are saying, it is new and better legal services that have caused the decrease in file-sharing, rather than respect for the law. There has been a trend where alternative legal solutions such as Spotify and Netflix are changing consumption patterns among young people.”
Also of interest is the apparent effect on up-and-coming youngsters who might otherwise have begun file-sharing themselves. The researchers found that between 2009 and 2013 the percentage of young people who never share files illegally increased from 21.6 percent to 30.2 percent, a boost of well over a third.
Interestingly, in that same four-year period, the percentage of young people who said they believe that people should not share files because it is illegal dropped from 24 percent to 16.9 percent. So, even while young people are sharing files less often, their acceptance of the standards presented by the law appears to be dropping too.
In this case it does indeed appear that the carrot is mightier than the stick.
Former Pirate Bay spokesman and co-founder Peter Sunde was arrested today in a rural area near Malmö, Sweden.
Sunde was wanted by Interpol for more than two years, ever since the sentence for his role in the Pirate Bay website was made final.
He has been living in Berlin for quite some time, but still had family ties in Sweden, which he visited occasionally.
Earlier today, a special Swedish police unit tasked with tracking down criminal fugitives carried out a raid at a farm in Skåne. Local law enforcement reportedly worked in collaboration with the Polish police.
While details are scarce at the moment, the Swedish newspaper Expressen reports that the arrest has been confirmed by the Swedish authorities.
According to Peter Althin, Sunde’s lawyer, the news means that his client will most likely be sent to prison to serve his 8-month sentence.
Sunde’s prison sentence was made final in 2012 after Sweden’s Supreme Court announced its decision not to grant leave to appeal in the long-running criminal case against the founders of The Pirate Bay.
However, Sunde decided not to give up without a fight. First he submitted his case to the European Court of Human Rights (EHCR), and after that was rejected he tried again at the Swedish Supreme Court this year, which rejected the request earlier this month.
Thus far only Gottfrid Svartholm and Carl Lundström has completed their prison sentences. The fourth defendant, Fredrik Neij remains a fugitive and currently resides in Asia.
Despite his fugitive status Sunde has made several public appearances in recent years. He was also involved in various tech-startups, including the micro-donation service Flattr and the NSA-proof messenger app Heml.is, for which he raised more than $150,000 through a crowd-funding campaign.
Sunde also ran for European Parliament last weekend for the Finnish Pirate Party. While he received the most votes of all the Pirate candidates, it was not enough for a seat in Brussels.
More info on the arrest and Sunde’s future is likely to follow in the days to come.
In the continuing piracy debate one thing has been established beyond reasonable doubt. If an entertainment producer wants to make any dent in piracy, at the very least they’re going to have to make their products readily available at a fair price.
This argument has gathered serious momentum in Australia during the past few years, with local consumers regularly criticizing international TV and movie companies for shipping products Down Under months after release and then charging unrealistic prices.
But in a recent opinion piece, the principal analyst at local music royalty collection outfit APRA AMCOS disputed whether the arrival of services like Spotify that give consumers what they want, have actually done anything to reduce piracy rates.
“Music’s had everything everybody now wants for television shows, such as Game of Thrones, for a couple of years: availability, access and a reasonable price. But the piracy issue still has not been solved,” Andrew Harris wrote.
“In fact, results last month from our ongoing national research show that music piracy levels – just as they were almost two years ago – still sit at around the same level as that of movies and television shows.”
Noting that Spotify offers content in Australia at the moment it’s released around the world and does so at one of the best prices, Harris arrives at a familiar conclusion.
“We’ve heard it all before. No matter how loud the minority might shout it in anger as the answer, it’s impossible to compete with free.”
Responding to Harris’s assertions in Australian Financial Review, Spotify Australia and New Zealand chief Kate Vale said that the company’s experiences told a different story.
“We do believe that access, availability and price does contribute and is the answer and we have proven this in other markets across Europe and particularly in Sweden where we have seen a 30 per cent reduction in piracy since we launched about six years ago,” Vale said.
Cracking Sweden was undoubtedly a major feat given the country’s long association with Internet piracy and Vale believes that Spotify now has the right formula to attract the most aggressive file-sharers – and make money from them.
“If you look at the main audience that is on Spotify, a lot of them are former pirates. There are teenagers who have potentially never paid for their music before, and probably never will,” she said.
“If we can get them on to a service that is free but legal, and they are contributing through our advertising on that free tier, then it is giving money back into the industry that they are just never going to get before.”
The ad-supported tier of Spotify is undoubtedly a great incentive to get people to try the service. Globally the company says that it converts around a quarter of free users to premium subscribers but Australia actually tops that with 31%, suggesting that Aussies are happier than most to part with their hard-earned cash in exchange for a good product.
Ross Anderson has an important new paper on the economics that drive government-on-population bulk surveillance:
My first big point is that all the three factors which lead to monopoly – network effects, low marginal costs and technical lock-in – are present and growing in the national-intelligence nexus itself. The Snowden papers show that neutrals like Sweden and India are heavily involved in information sharing with the NSA, even though they have tried for years to pretend otherwise. A non-aligned country such as India used to be happy to buy warplanes from Russia; nowadays it still does, but it shares intelligence with the NSA rather then the FSB. If you have a choice of joining a big spy network like America’s or a small one like Russia’s then it’s like choosing whether to write software for the PC or the Mac back in the 1990s. It may be partly an ideological choice, but the economics can often be stronger than the ideology.
Second, modern warfare, like the software industry, has seen the bulk of its costs turn from variable costs into fixed costs. In medieval times, warfare was almost entirely a matter of manpower, and society was organised appropriately; as well as rent or produce, tenants owed their feudal lord forty days’ service in peacetime, and sixty days during a war. Barons held their land from the king in return for an oath of fealty, and a duty to provide a certain size of force on demand; priests and scholars paid a tax in lieu of service, so that a mercenary could be hired in their place. But advancing technology brought steady industrialisation. When the UK and the USA attacked Germany in 1944, we did not send millions of men to Europe, as in the first world war, but a combat force of a couple of hundred thousand troops – though with thousands of tanks and backed by larger numbers of men in support roles in tens of thousands of aircraft and ships. Nowadays the transition from labour to capital has gone still further: to kill a foreign leader, we could get a drone fire a missile that costs $30,000. But that’s backed by colossal investment – the firms whose data are tapped by PRISM have a combined market capitalisation of over $1 trillion.
Third is the technical lock-in, which operates at a number of levels. First, there are lock-in effects in the underlying industries, where (for example) Cisco dominates the router market: those countries that have tried to build US-free information infrastructures (China) or even just government information infrastructures (Russia, Germany) find it’s expensive. China went to the trouble of sponsoring an indigenous vendor, Huawei, but it’s unclear how much separation that buys them because of the common code shared by router vendors: a vulnerability discovered in one firm’s products may affect another. Thus the UK government lets BT buy Huawei routers for all but its network’s most sensitive parts (the backbone and the lawful-intercept functions). Second, technical lock-in affects the equipment used by the intelligence agencies themselves, and is in fact promoted by the agencies via ETSI standards for functions such as lawful intercept.
Just as these three factors led to the IBM network dominating the mainframe age, the Intel/Microsoft network dominating the PC age, and Facebook dominating the social networking scene, so they push strongly towards global surveillance becoming a single connected ecosystem.
These are important considerations when trying to design national policies around surveillance.
In 2012 Sweden’s Supreme Court announced its decision not to grant leave to appeal in the long-running criminal case against the founders of The Pirate Bay.
This meant that the previously determined jail sentences and fines handed out to Peter Sunde, Fredrik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm and Carl Lundström would stand.
Both Svartholm and Lundström have completed their jail sentences, but Peter Sunde decided not to give up without a fight. First he submitted his case to the European Court of Human Rights (EHCR), and after that was rejected he tried again at the Swedish Supreme Court this year.
A childhood friend of Sunde took on the case as part of his legal training, helped by several law professors. Despite an earlier rejection by the Supreme Court, the legal team believed that there was a good chance the case would be re-opened based on recent EU rulings and regulations.
Today, however, the Supreme Court announced that it will not re-open the case. According to Swedish Radio the Court ruled that there is no new information that requires them to revisit their earlier decision.
TorrentFreak spoke to Peter Sunde, who isn’t really surprised by the outcome. His friend felt that justice would be served, but he never got his hopes up too high.
“It doesn’t affect me that much, it’s just more evidence that Sweden has no intention to follow the law or EU-regulations at all,” Sunde said.
Sunde will now continue working on several of his startups, including the NSA-proof messenger app Heml.is, for which he raised more than $150,000 through a crowd-funding campaign.
In addition, Sunde is also one of the Finnish Pirate Party candidates for the European Parliament elections later this week. If he is elected, Sunde hopes to do something about the negative effects of copyright law in Europe, something he is personally familiar with.
Earlier this week tips coming into TorrentFreak suggested that a relatively small torrent site known as Sparvar had come under the scrutiny of the police. Sure enough, the site subsequently went offline.
Problems had been building for more than two years. Swedish anti-piracy group Rights Alliance (Antipiratbyran) had built up an interest in Sparvar, a site directed at a largely Swedish audience. In early 2012 following action against a private site known as Swepiracy, Rights Alliance warned that Sparvar was on their list of targets.
Until this week, however, Sparvar had been hosted in Canada with Montreal-based Netelligent Hosting Services. For some time it had been presumed that hosting a torrent site is Canada is legal, a notion that was recently backed up by Netelligent president Mohamed Salamé.
“[As] long as there are no violations of our [acceptable use policy], we take no actions against torrent sites which are still legal in Canada,” Salamé told TF.
Nevertheless, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) still took action against Sparvar. How did this come to pass?
A source familiar with the case who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity told TorrentFreak that Netelligent was served with a data preservation order by the RCMP who were working together with authorities in Sweden.
In the first instance Netelligent were gagged from informing their client about the investigation, presumably so that no data could be tampered with. Netelligent was then sent a hard drive by the RCMP for the purposes of making a copy of the Sparvar server. This was to be handed over to their authorities.
We’re led to believe that Netelligent put up a fight to protect their customer’s privacy but in the end they were left with no choice but to comply with the orders. And here’s why.
MLAT, or Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty agreements, enable countries to gather, share and exchange information in order to enforce the law. Since 2001, Canada has had an MLAT with Sweden and since there was a criminal investigation underway in Sweden against Sparvar, Canada and Netelligent were legally obligated to provide assistance in the case.
So what does this mean for other sites hosted in Canada? Well, according to our source anyone running a site should be aware of the countries that Canada has MLAT agreements with, just in case another country decides to launch a case.
Those countries can be found here but they include everyone from the United States to Australia, from China to Russia, and many countries across Europe including the UK, Netherlands, Spain, Poland, France and Italy.
Finally, our source informs us that while cooperation in criminal cases has obviously been requested before, to the extent of his knowledge this is the first time that a torrent site has been a target.
In roughly two weeks time, people all over the European Union will be going to the polls to elect the next European Parliament. Five years ago, the Swedish Pirate Party had a substantial victory with over 7% of the vote, and while the German Pirates didn’t get a seat, they did claim over two hundred thousand votes.
Now, five years later, more Pirate parties are now in a position to contest the election.
Today we provide a quick run-down of the Pirate candidates in the various countries, sorted by incumbency and seat apportionment (Note: many links are to non-English language websites)
Sweden (20 seats)
The only country with incumbent MEPs, the order of Sweden’s two main candidates is unchanged from 2009, with Christian Engstrom first, followed by Amelia Andersdotter. Amelia, the youngest ever MEP when she was elected, is also one of the candidates for the EU commission presidency.
Christian told TorrentFreak: “The struggle to protect freedom on the Internet will continue, from defending net neutrality to fighting against mass surveillance. We must explain to the politicians from the older parties that the Internet is not a toy, and that we must defend our fundamental rights as vigorously in the online world as in the offline.”
The full list of candidates competing for the 20 seats is available here.
Competing alongside Sweden in 2009, Germany also has the most seats of any country, with 96 up for grabs. While they didn’t quite hit 1% last time, they’ve been doing well in various regional elections for the last year or two, and they’re hardly a new ‘unelectable’ party either, with 250 seats at various state and local governments. The 5% election threshold was ruled unconstitutional in 2011 and a proposed value of 3% was also struck down a few months ago, meaning that just over 1% of the votes are needed to start winning seats, well within their grasp.
“Our vision for Europe,” lead candidate Julia Reda told TF, “is based on the Internet: on sharing, collaboration and a community of peers. We need Pirates in the European Parliament to reform copyright and enable the sharing of culture and knowledge across national borders.”
Interestingly, there are at least twice as many candidates on each regions list than there are seats available, meaning that at least half the pirates are never going to be elected no matter how well they do.
United Kingdom (73, contesting 8)
Like France, Poland and Italy, the UK is also split into several constituencies, with the UK Pirate Party only contesting one, their headquarters region of North West England. They’re focusing on this area after having had some success in local elections in the recent past, beating, or equaling the coalition-government party candidates. In keeping with the open nature of the party, they’re also raising money for the election via crowdfunding platform Pozible.
Candidate Jack Alnutt is firm on why people should vote Pirate. “The European Union needs more transparent and open governance, more democratic involvement with increased powers for the Parliament and better protection of our fundamental rights. The only way to make this happen is to vote Pirate in May.”
The situation in Spain is more complex than normal. There have been two competing pirate groups for a while, Partido Pirata – the national party formed in 2006 which covered the whole of Spain – and a group of regional parties that have now banded together under the banner Confederacion Pirata. It’s this latter group that is running candidates nationally.
Their list of 50 candidates is headed by Dario Castañé from Barcelona, a 29-year-old computer engineer who describes politics as “a passion of mine”. With seats being awarded on just 2.5% of the vote last year, they have a strong chance of getting at least one Pirate into the European Parliament.
Poland (51, contesting 16)
Poland is another constitution-based system. Here only 6 pirates are running for election, but they’re also running in a coalition, with the Direct Democracy party, the Libertarian Party, and a number of independent candidates.
Four of these are going to compete for the 4 seats in Łódź [district 6] (spots 1, 3, 4, and 5), with the other two pirates on the ballot in the Silesian area [district 11] to the south (second on the list), and Lublin [district 8] to the east (fourth on the list).
The ten Pirates contesting the Dutch seats are led by scientist Matthijs Pontier. They recently celebrated the first elected Pirate to the Board committee of Amsterdam West with 3.6%, and fell just short of other seats in the Amsterdam South committee (3.5%) and city council (1.8%)
With no threshold to win seats, getting a seat is not outside the realms of possibility for them, especially if they can keep the momentum going.
Czech Republic (21)
The 21 seats in the Czech Republic will be contended by a full spread of Pirates. Leading the list is 34-year old Dr Ivan Bartos, Ph.D, an expert in database systems and part-time musician.
Current polls have them running a little short of their target to get a seat, but as with the Swedish party five years ago, they’ve a strong youth following which may be underrepresented in the polling. This gave them a ‘win’ in a student mock EU election with 19.2% of the vote from the 25,000+ students aged 15 and older polled. Worst case, that’s another few thousand votes next time.
In Greece, the Pirate-Green cooperation that has existed in the European Parliament has continued, with a coalition list comprising candidates of both the Greek Pirate Party, and the Ecologist Greens party, along with several independent candidates.
In 2009, the Ecologist Greens won one seat with 3.9% of the vote. What impact the Pirates will have on any Green candidates is unknown, but with a formal alliance, it’s certainly expected that there will be some.
Another party in an alliance, this time though, the coalition of three parties, all without national-level representation, as well as a few independents. Instead of a coalition with the Greens, as in Greece, the Austrian Pirates have instead joined forces with the Communist Party and the Change party to form the group ‘Europe Anders”.
The list is headed by current MEP Martin Ehrenhauser (elected on a pirate-like anti-corruption and pro-transparency platform via the “Hans-Peter Martin’s list” in 2009) with the first Pirate in fourth. There is a 4% threshold.
Finland uses a non-preferential list, meaning that (as we understand it) you vote for candidates, which also count for the party. The party is allocated seats based on the votes for all its candidates, and party fills those seats based on the vote count for the candidates.
Their most obvious candidate for a seat is Pirate Bay co-founder Peter Sunde, whose campaign launch we covered recently. He was also nominated as the Pirate Party Europe candidate for Commission President with Amelia Andersdotter as mentioned earlier.
It’s almost déjà vu for Croatian Pirates. They are one of only three Pirate parties to have previously contested a European parliament election, along with the Germans and Swedes. In their case, however, it was during an extraordinary election last year on their acceptance to the EU, where they scored 1.13% of the vote, putting them 12th of 28 parties.
This year it appears that most parties have joined into a few coalitions or partnerships, with several European group affiliations mixed, but there are still 25 groups listed on the ballot. It certainly makes for an interesting election for the 13 pirates on the Croatian Pirate Party list who are bucking the local coalition trend and standing alone.
In Slovenia, they’re being a little more “realistic” (in their own words) and fielding only a single candidate. Rolando Benjamin Vaz Ferreira is a translator specializing in English and German as well as his native Slovenian.
The feeling is upbeat and positive though, telling TF: “We’ve received incredible support amongst those who know of us, may it be voters, journalists, civil servants and even other party officers. Our biggest limiting factor is how many people we can reach in time.” In 2009, 9.7% was needed to win a seat, a figure that might be possible if the anti-corruption sentiment that has swept the country leads to a strong pirate vote.
As one of the smallest and most overlooked countries with only 6 seats available, the barrier is high (some 15%) but party president and list-leader Sven Clement is a mixture of optimist and realist. After getting 2.96% in last October’s national election he’s hopeful for an improvement, but a double-digit increase is unlikely.
Clement told TF that despite that, people should still vote Pirate to ensure they can receive the kind of public financing the larger parties enjoy, enabling them to compete on a more level field.
The Estonian Pirate Party is also not running any candidates of its own in this election. They are, however, endorsing an independent candidate instead. Silver Meikar supports the Pirate platform, and has reportedly agreed to include a Pirate adviser as a member of his staff, if elected.
As with Luxembourg, with only six seats available, there is a high threshold for election, but only 8.7% of the vote was needed in 2009 for a seat.
There is some debate about Italy and if they are running a ‘pirate’ candidate, hence its entry at the end of the list. As far as we can tell, the Italian Pirate Party is acting as an advising party on digital rights for the coalition “The Other Europe”, a left-wing coalition that includes the Communist Refoundation Party, Left Ecology Freedom, and the Labour party.
Italy, like France and the UK, uses a regional constituency system. However, which candidates in the coalition’s regional lists are Pirates (if any) are not known to us at this time.
Belgium is one of the earlier casualties. Despite having produced a candidate list for both it’s Dutch and French-speaking regions, they were unable to collect enough public signatures in time to make it onto the ballot.
The European Parliament elections will take place on the following days
May 22nd for the Netherlands and the United Kingdom,
May 23rd for Ireland and the Czech Republic.
May 24th you can vote in Latvia, Malta, Slovakia, and the French Overseas territories and a second days voting in the Czech Republic
It’s been five years since Sweden implemented the controversial anti-piracy legislation, IPRED.
The law, which gives rights holders the authority to request the personal details of alleged copyright infringers, was met with fierce resistance from ISPs and the public at large.
At the same time, however, there were plenty of signs that the law stopped people from pirating. A day after it went into effect, Netnod Internet Exchange reported a significant drop in Swedish Internet traffic.
Inspired by the anecdote, the effectiveness of IPRED has become a topic of interest for economists at Uppsala University in Sweden. In a new paper they report their findings on the effect of the anti-piracy law on Internet traffic and music sales.
The main goal of the research is to examine whether the anti-piracy law did indeed have an effect, and to what extent. To make sure that the effect is unique to Sweden, both Norway and Finland were chosen as control groups.
The results, which will be published in the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, confirm that Internet traffic decreased quite a bit after IPRED went into effect, beginning abruptly the very same day.
IPRED’s apparent effect on Internet traffic
Perhaps even more surprisingly, music sales also skyrocketed compared to the other two Scandinavian countries.
“We find that the reform decreased Internet traffic by 16% and increased music sales by 36% during the first six months. Pirated music therefore seems to be a strong substitute to legal music,” the researchers write, summarizing the results.
IPRED’s apparent effect on digital music sales
Interestingly, however, the overall effect on Internet traffic and music sales vanished after half a year. The only effect that remained was the increase in digital sales. Internet traffic and physical music sales returned to normal, in part because the chance of getting caught is quite low.
“The deterrent effect decreased quickly, possibly because of the few and slow legal processes. Law enforcement through convictions therefore seems to be a necessary ingredient for the long-run success of a copyright protection law,” the researchers note.
The researchers suggest that if more people are convicted, the effects may last longer. During the first few years only a handful of file-sharers were brought to justice, while hundreds of thousands took steps to circumvent the law.
“As the first court cases were only settled recently, it is still possible that further convictions would restore an effect that is more long-lasting,” they write in their conclusion.
The question remains, however, whether bankrupting people or throwing them in jail is the ideal strategy in the long run…
Born in Sweden but with Finnish roots, Peter Sunde will run as candidate for Finland’s Pirate Party in the European Parliament elections next year.
The Pirate Party movement currently has two Swedish Members of the European Parliament. In the 2014 elections the Pirates are participating in many countries, hoping to expand the success story.
With Sunde the Finnish party definitely has one of the most prominent candidates on the ballot.
As an Internet entrepreneur and the former spokesperson of The Pirate Bay, Sunde’s subversive work is already known to millions of people across Europe. Despite a pending prison term for his involvement with The Pirate Bay, he is determined to disrupt the European Parliament in Brussels.
Today, Sunde launches his run for the European Parliament elections with a rather unusual video. Instead of scolding the competition, the campaign will highlight several personality traits of the Pirate Bay co-founder, starting with his romantic side.
“Most politicians are boring and unromantic. Romance is needed because it means you have a heart and a soul,” Sunde told TF commenting on the relevance of romance in politics.
Most of all, however, Sunde wants to bring back ideology to modern-day politics. Instead of taking notes from powerful lobbyists and bashing other politicians, he wants to let people know what he believes in, and how that should be accomplished.
“I’m tired of careerists in politics who rather talk about what the other guys are doing wrong instead of talking about what our future should be. I see no ideology in politics anymore, but we never needed it more than today,” Sunde tells TF.
“Politicians in general, EU-politicians in particular, are prone to listening to lobbyists and afraid of not getting re-elected. I am clear with what I want, and I will fight for those no matter what lobbyists will say,” he adds.
Running for the Pirate Party, Sunde is in favor of decriminalizing file-sharing for personal use. In addition, he wants to keep the Internet free and open, without needless censorship and restrictions.
“We need a free Internet, an open democratic society, more transparency in governments,” he says.
The Pirate Bay co-founder is well aware of the fact that he is not the typical Parliament member, but that may be a strength rather than a weakness. In any case, he definitely stands out.
“I might be a weird fit for the EU but that’s exactly why I think I’m needed. My campaign videos are probably quite weird too, just for the same reason,” Sunde concludes.
In a few weeks we will know if the Finns agree that Sunde is the right choice to represent them in Brussels.
At this very moment alleged “super hacker” Gottfrid Svartholm is being held in a Danish prison on suspicion of hacking into the computers of IT company CSC.
The trial is expected to begin in the early days of September, more than four months from today and close to ten months since he was extradited to Denmark from Sweden in 2013. But while one might presume that the authorities already have everything they need to prosecute Svartholm, it appears that their investigation is still very much a work in progress.
It’s no secret that Gottfrid’s last days of freedom were spent in Cambodia, a country that he came to call home and where he’d built a life and found work. Now, some 20 months since he left the country, the police investigation into his activities there have been revived. And, according to one of their targets, the manner in which it’s being carried out is a cause for concern.
John, who has asked us not to use his full real name, is a former colleague of Gottfrid who lives and works in Cambodia. TorrentFreak has confirmed his identity and the fact that he and Gottfrid did business together. On April 2 he received an unexpected telephone call about someone he hasn’t seen for years.
Mysterious police threats
“The person who spoke to me on the phone was threatening and aggressive. He spoke with a thick European accent and initially said he was ‘with Nordic police’,” John explains.
“At that point I didn’t think I was speaking to an actual policeman because really, ‘Nordic police’ is about as evasive as an introduction can possibly be. After I repeatedly asked for more details, he only specified ‘Swedish police’. No name, no badge number.”
John was told he needed to go to a meeting to discuss Gottfrid but with such a mysterious introduction he was concerned at what might be waiting for him, including this not being genuine police business.
“I felt uncomfortable with the situation, and due to the way the call had been handled up to that point, I didn’t want to meet them. I had no idea whether I was even speaking to a real policeman,” John explains. “I asked if this meeting was voluntary, and he specifically said that they would ‘use local police to force’ me into meeting them.”
John was informed that the meeting would consist of him, the mystery Swedish policeman, a local Cambodian policeman, and a Danish policeman.
“They allowed me to choose the location, but said it had to be the same day. I chose a very public cafe for my own safety,” he says. Due to the apparent urgency of the situation, John had no time to arrange for a lawyer to be present.
Once the call had ended, John contacted his embassy but was informed that there was little they could do to help. Although apprehensive he decided to attend the meeting, set for the lobby bar in the Hotel Cambodiana.
Meeting in the hotel
“When I turned up to the meeting, the guy who threatened me on the phone wasn’t there, and instead there was Jens Jorgensen from the Danish police and Anders Riisager [pictured right, different occasion], who introduced himself as ‘Copenhagen Deputy District Attorney’,” John explains, adding that neither would reveal the identity of the person who made the earlier threats.
With the meeting underway, John reports that Anders was being “nice” and apologized for the earlier telephone threats while clarifying it was neither of them. Most of their questions were “unanswerable”, as they were “based on the type of thing that one wouldn’t remember from three years ago, such as what kind of computer Gottfrid used, etc.”
The million-dollar PC-access question
However, police also showed an interest in who had access to Gottfrid’s computer in Cambodia. This is of particular interest because it was on this point that Gottfrid had his Swedish ‘Logica’ conviction overturned after the Court of Appeal couldn’t rule out that someone else accessed his computer to commit crimes.
“I was threatened and bullied into attending this questioning, and yet they completely ignored the answers when it wasn’t what they wanted to hear. A good example is that they asked if anyone else had access to [Gottfrid's] computer. When I said yes, they didn’t even ask for a full detailed list of people, not that I’d have one though, it was years ago,” John explains.
“The simple fact is that there were 50+ people with direct physical access to [Gottfrid's] computer at the time that the police were asking about. They were visibly pissed off [when I told them that], and given the threats that had already been made, it was an uncomfortable situation for me to say the least.”
Why has it taken so long?
Considering how closely John worked with Gottfrid it seems extremely unlikely that the police had no interest in him before this month, especially in respect of providing information in the crucial days leading up to and after Gottfrid’s arrest in August/September 2012. Yet this was the first time police had asked him anything.
“The implication that this isn’t something they had already looked into earlier on is just bizarre. This was the first time I’ve ever been questioned by police in relation to anything concerning Gottfrid,” John says.
“The most shocking part of the whole thing was just how ridiculous their questions were. These people are traveling around to third world countries refusing to identify themselves, making threats that border on being criminal, all so they can ask about rumors and hearsay that dates back over three years.”
“You can all say what you want about Gottfrid, but the fact is, the actions of the people investigating this case are clearly the actions of desperate people who are grasping at straws. If they had any evidence, they wouldn’t need to go around behaving the way they are,” he says.
Describing the whole episode as “shocking and outrageous”, John says that he hopes some good will come out of making his experiences public.
“Gottfrid isn’t someone I feel I owe anything to, but this whole investigation is clearly ridiculous and without merit. It could have been any one of a whole bunch of people [with access to Gottfrid's computer] and they know it. I don’t want to cause problems for myself, but I’d like to see Gottfrid get treated like a human being.”
Last year following a failed appeal to the Supreme Court in Sweden, Gottfrid Svartholm was extradited to Denmark. There he stands accused of hacking into computers belonging to IT company CSC.
The nature of the Pirate Bay founder’s detention has been highly controversial. His reputation as a master hacker led authorities to treat him with fear, placing him in solitary confinement, severely restricting his interaction with other inmates and limiting his access to books. Magazines sent in from outside were also off-limits, since prison authorities feared they may contain encrypted messages.
These extraordinary conditions prompted the creation of a petition by the Free Anakata Campaign. After a gentle start the protest gathered momentum hitting 50,000 and then 100,000 signatures. Speaking with TorrentFreak, Gottfrid’s mother Kristina said that the petition had put tremendous pressure on the authorities, leading them to ease her son’s book restrictions and interactions with other inmates.
After exceeding 106,000 signatures the petition was delivered to the Danish government yesterday. The Danish Pirate Party had the honor of handing it over to Minister of Justice Karen Hækkerup.
The Internet petition, which reached 106,538 signatures, was printed out onto 2,600 sheets of paper and presented to the minister in a box covered in pirate wrapping paper.
“In my eyes he is in solitary confinement for no reason. I mean, he is being treated worse than a serial killer,” said Rolf Bjerre from the Pirate Party after the handover.
DR.DK legal correspondent Claus Buhr said that Svartholm’s adverse conditions are a product of the authorities’ lack of experience of dealing with someone with the Swede’s capabilities.
“If he was a killer or suspected of drug crime, they are accustomed to those kind of suspects and know what they’re capable of. However, a possible super-hacker is someone the Danish police very rarely have to deal with,” Buhr said.
“This is probably the reason why he is being held under the strictest lock and key, simply because it’s not fully understood what he can do, and whether he’s able to get information in and out of jail.”
Even though Gottfrid has been held in Denmark for more than five months, the investigation against him is still underway with no immediate end in sight. In the meantime he’s being allowed just one hour a day outside and a single controlled visit with his mother, who travels from Sweden to Denmark each week to see him.
The case is expected to go to trial in the early days of September 2014 and it’s hoped the petition will ease his conditions before then.
A quick post today: I’m at the airport gate waiting to get on a plane.
I sent out a tweet about this brilliant advertising application of the Pi last week, but so many of you missed it on Twitter and have emailed to tell me about it since then (including one Dr Eben Upton) that I thought it deserved a spot here. Here’s a digital billboard that responds to the wind created by an approaching train.
The advertising agency behind this piece of clever is Åkestam Holst from Sweden, working with production company Stopp for Apotek Hjärtat’s Apolosophy products. Stopp says the ad was scheduled to be run for one day only, but it was so popular that the company which owns the screens asked for it to run for the rest of the week “as a way for them to show the opportunities their screens can offer”. When you think about it, a device like the Pi that can run a full HD digital display and can be hooked up to respond to real-world inputs is ideal for this sort of setup. These guys aren’t the only agency to be using a Raspberry Pi behind digital displays: but this is the best integrated use of the device I’ve seen in this context, and it’s made for a very powerful piece of advertising.
Following a failed appeal to the Supreme Court in Sweden, Gottfrid Svartholm was extradited to Denmark last November, where he now stands accused of hacking offenses.
Denmark accuses the Pirate Bay co-founder of hacking into the mainframe computers of IT company CSC. In an earlier case in Sweden he was acquitted of similar charges, but convicted for hacking into IT company Logica.
Gottfrid appeared in court again today and during the closed-door hearing his custody was extended for a minimum of four more weeks. Until then he will remain in prison, as the authorities fear that he may compromise evidence if released.
During the hearing prosecutor Maria Cingari said that the investigation into the alleged hacking carried out by Gottfrid and his 20-year-old co-defendant is still ongoing. Since it’s such a complex case it may take “a few months” before the indictment is finalized.
“The investigation is not over. It is a very extensive and complex hacking case. Police don’t have a clear picture yet of what has happened with the stolen files. Investigations suggest that the downloaded files are partly located on servers abroad, “she said.
Among other things, Gottfrid is accused of accessing a large number of files including police records and drivers’ licenses, some of which were transferred to servers outside Denmark. The prosecution says that Danish police have asked for assistance from authorities in Australia, hoping to find out what happened to the stolen records.
Gottfrid continues to deny involvement in the Danish hacks and is pleading not guilty. According to him, someone else must have gained access to his machine to carry them out.
Gottfrid’s co-defendant, a 20-year-old Dane, also remains in prison having already been detained for more than eight months. In Denmark people can be held in custody for a year, for crimes with a punishment of up to six years.
In recent weeks Gottfrid has received a lot of support from people all over the world. More than 100,000 signed a petition to relax his restrictive imprisonment conditions.
While he now has access to his own books, access to other reading material is still very limited. Among other things, he can’t receive books or letters from outsiders.
TorrentFreak talked to Gottfrid’s mother Kristina Svartholm today, who can’t understand why her son is only allowed minimal communication with the outside world. Just last week the police stressed that she can’t give Gottfrid books and other printed material, as these may contain secret messages.
“I find it remarkable that Denmark keeps him in relative solitary confinement, after all those months between last year when he was free to contact me on a daily basis, and free to receive books, newspapers, magazines, printed copies of articles from scientific journals and so forth,” Kristina told TF.
“I think this assumption is astounding, because it suggests that I would deliberately risk my only opportunity to meet him during the single hour per week that we are allowed to see each other,” Kristina adds.
Whether the restrictive conditions will stay in place for The Pirate Bay founder will become known in the weeks to come.
Following a failed appeal to the Supreme Court in Sweden, Gottfrid Svartholm was extradited to Denmark last November.
The Pirate Bay founder stands accused of hacking into the mainframe computers of IT company CSC. In an earlier case in Sweden he was acquitted of similar charges, but convicted for hacking into IT company Logica.
Today, Svartholm appeared in court during a closed session, much to the disappointment of his supporters and members of the press who were denied access.
During the hearing the court extended Svartholm’s custody until February 5, at minimum. Until then he is expected to be detained in relative isolation, without free access to his mail and books.
Anakata supporters gathered outside the courthouse (via @ClausBuhr)
In an attempt to free the Swede, or at least improve his circumstances, a petition was launched recently, directed at the Danish Prime Minister.
Initially there were only a few hundred backers but when a banner was added to the homepage of The Pirate Bay this quickly grew to more than 50,000. Among other things, the petition demands that Gottfrid is given free access to books and other reading material.
“With only 9 hours a week of contact outside of his isolation cell, reading and educational materials are important for Anakata. He is a computer genius and it is important for not only mental but physical health to keep a mind active,” the petition reads.
The “signatures” of the petition backers will be handed over to the judge overseeing the case, but whether this massive support will help Svartholm has yet to be seen.
Luckily for Svartholm, his situation already improved somewhat last week. He is no longer kept in solitary confinement as he was before, and the 9 hour restriction was cancelled at the same time.
Pirate Bay supports Anakata’s petition
Both Svartholm and his 20-year-old co-defendant have pleaded not guilty to the hacking allegations. According to his lawyer Luise Høj, Gottfrid believes the case rests on a misunderstanding.
“He doesn’t understand why he is mixed up in this case. For each passing day he seems to be being subjected to another unfair treatment. He can only wait and hope that the court makes the right decision when the time comes,” Høj says.
The authorities, however, are convinced that Svartholm is involved. Among other things, they note that the hacking suddenly stopped when he was arrested in Cambodia in 2011.
The defense and prosecution are expected to present their arguments during a trial later this year.
Update: The article was updated to clarify that Svartholm’s solitary confinement and the restriction to meet with other inmates, have been cancelled.
Pirate parties worldwide are known for their aversion of both on- and offline surveillance.
So, when the Swedish Pirate Party found out that their local intelligence agency FRA was helping the NSA to spy on Russian leaders, something had to be done.
Turning the tables on the spying agency, three members of the Swedish Pirate Party’s youth division drove up to FRA’s headquarters yesterday, hoping they could find out more about the agency’s secretive plans.
“No politician or FRA executive wants to tell the public what they actually are doing. So we thought that we need to do a bit of signal intelligence ourselves,” Gustav Nipe, Chairman of Young Pirate tells TorrentFreak.
Armed with a large antenna the Pirates parked their purple van a few meters outside the FRA building. However, before they could set up their surveillance rig armed guards came rushing in to put a stop to their plans.
Ready to spy
The ‘spies’ were held for 45 minutes while their vehicle was searched, with the guards filming every minute detail. The pirates were eventually released, but not before they were warned that any attempt to activate their equipment would lead to their arrest.
Looking back, the Young Pirate chairman is surprised that they were approached this aggressively, as they were not trespassing or carrying out any other type of illegal activity. “Everybody is allowed to scan the air for signals in Sweden,” Nipe tells TorrentFreak.
“It’s clear that FRA have something to hide, otherwise they wouldn’t have sent armed guards at us,” he adds.
Spying on the spies
The Pirates hope that their actions have at least helped to raise public awareness about the secret surveillance practices, and the fact that those who are responsible refuse to explain what they are doing, and why.
“It is up to us citizens to try to find out what is going on. Who and what is FRA spying on? Our constitution states that all public power emanates from the people, but when we are not entrusted to know what is done with this power, we need to seek the answers ourselves,” Nipe concludes.
Perhaps a drone may come in handy next time? That worked pretty well for the German Pirate Party.
The Simpsons is rightfully considered one of the greatest animated shows to ever grace the airwaves and last night’s “Steal This Episode” will do nothing to change that perception. It covered the issues generated by illegal downloading and was a shining example of how far the show’s creators are prepared to go when covering a topic.
If you don’t want a few spoilers as you intend to watch later, please stop reading now.
The show begins with Homer’s co-workers gathered around the watercooler discussing Radioactive Man’s latest movie. Homer hasn’t seen it and he gets upset that no matter where he goes people are discussing how great it is. Desperate to see the movie, Homer took the entire family to the theater. Sadly it cost a fortune and was riddled with advertising.
“If I wanted to pay for commercials I can’t skip i’d sign up for Hulu Plus,” he complained while launching into a rant that got him ejected from the theater.
Seeing his father’s sadness, Bart taught Homer how to illegally download from the best pirate website around – The Bootleg Bay. His precise instructions were continually interrupted by a PSA-style voiceover explaining how Fox does not endorse piracy.
Back at work, Homer walked in on another water-cooler chat about the latest Bond movie. He hadn’t seen that either but when his colleagues told him to go the theater to see it, he explained that wouldn’t be necessary.
“All I need to see this movie is a laptop and a website based in a country that is really just an offshore oil platform,” Homer said.
This is a delightful reference to The Pirate Bay planning to buy the island nation of Sealand way back in 2007. Groening certainly does his homework.
After showing his colleagues the Bond movie on his laptop, one commented that it was a great experience that combined the fun of the theater with the thrill of stealing. Another said that what the movie industry needs to understand is that the people have needs – brand new, big budget entertainment, in their homes – for nothing. It’s clear that Matt Groening is as happy as ever to take shots at both sides.
What followed was an interesting parallel. Many times in the past The Pirate Bay has made it clear that its mission is to offer ‘culture’ to all. In the show Homer does something similar by opening his own free mini theater for the people of Springfield using movies downloaded from The Bootleg Bay.
However, when Marge later discovered that she’d been watching a pirate movie, she sent a check to Hollywood to pay for the ticket she never bought. This set off a chain of events which saw Homer investigated by the FBI. The size of the movie piracy department next to the drug enforcement office is a clear nod to the resources being expended on piracy-related issues.
Inside the FBI’s movie piracy department was a large bustling nerve center with agents sitting at workstations and a world map glowing with pirate locations. The FBI were clearly going to put a lot of resources into tracking Homer down.
Although most will probably miss it, the next scene almost certainly referenced another important event in file-sharing history. Homer presented a downloaded copy of Cosmic Wars VII, a movie which was clearly meant to be Star Wars. He noted that the copy he was about to show was a leaked version “direct from the computer of an angry editor at a special effects house.”
This inclusion is very interesting. Back in 2005, file-sharing site EliteTorrents was subjected to a massive FBI raid after it offered for download an unfinished ‘workprint’ version of Star Wars Episode III which had obviously originated from an industry pre-production source. While several staff members at Elite were all jailed, no one was ever prosecuted for the actual leak, something which remains highly suspicious to this day.
Before long though, a Kim Dotcom-style raid was being carried out against the animated pirate cinema, complete with plenty of armed officers seeking to intimidate “and stage the prison suicide” of Homer Simpson. He’s taken away to prison but things didn’t go quite to plan, with Homer quickly becoming a fugitive. Desperate for sanctuary he flees to the only place in America that doesn’t care about Internet piracy laws – the Swedish consulate.
“The people of Sweden believe that all movies should be shared freely,” explained Lisa to a confused Marge.
Eventually Homer hands himself over to the many FBI agents massing outside and, like pretty much all big file-sharing cases in the US, later finds himself up in court to answer for his sins.
Overall the episode is a clever one that highlights both sides of the debate. It makes clear that big budget content needs to have a funding mechanism, but even more apparent is the overblown response to the issue encouraged by Hollywood and executed by law enforcement.
Definitely one to watch – which raises another issue of course. Right at the start of the episode Homer found himself pirating movies because the official experience fell short of his expectations. Equally there will be plenty of people wanting to watch this episode who will have no local access to the show. It’s a self perpetuating cycle that cannot be solved with law enforcement.
The release of the episode follows a Fox lawsuit and a $10.5m judgment against a Canadian who ran a Simpsons download portal. Coincidence or….?
Today The Pirate Bay returns to its Swedish based .SE domain, after a domain hopping exercise of little more than a week.
The trouble started last week when the notorious BitTorrent site lost its .SX domain after pressure from the anti-piracy outfit BREIN. In a response The Pirate Bay moved to Ascension Island’s .AC ccTLD, and later Peru’s .PE domain, but both these domains were suspended as well.
Yesterday The Pirate Bay switched over to Guyana’s .GY ccTLD, where the torrent site wasn’t welcome either. Within a day of thepiratebay.gy becoming operational the local registry has already taken it offline.
TorrentFreak reached out to the GY registry which didn’t name a specific reason for the suspension, other than the following.
“Once a site violates our policies, it will be suspended,” the registry noted in a statement. A brief inspection of the registry’s acceptable use policy reveals that linking to copyrighted material is sufficient to warrant a suspension.
After the .GY domain was lost a few hours ago The Pirate Bay moved back to its old home, thepiratebay.se. The site is expected to remain in Sweden’s relatively calm waters for the time being.
The Pirate Bay
The return to the .SE domain is noteworthy, as this domain is also at risk of being seized.
On behalf of several major movie, music and publishing companies, Swedish prosecutor Fredrik Ingblad filed a motion at a Stockholm court in April, requesting the seizure of thepiratebay.se, piratebay.se and the new thepiratebay.is domains.
“There is widespread copyright infringement linked to these sites and these domains are used to assist in connection with crime,” Ingblad wrote in the complaint.
Ironically, this looming seizure was the main reason why TPB traded in its .SE domain for a Greenland-based domain in April, before switching to a .IS and a .SX domain when other problems became apparent.
The good news for The Pirate Bay, however, is that the .SE domain registry previously stated that it will not suspend the domain name unless there is a court order. This means that Sweden should be a safe haven for now.