The simplest way of trolling people is to defend that which everyone hates. That’s what Paul Graham discovered this week in his support for “inequality“. As a troll, I of course agree with his position.
Posts tagged ‘sweden’
In a growing number of countries around Europe, courts have been overwhelmingly willing to order Internet service providers to block pirate sites. In Sweden, spiritual home of The Pirate Bay, copyright holders hoped to achieve the same.
However, a case brought in 2014 by Universal Music, Sony Music, Warner Music, Nordisk Film and the Swedish Film Industry against local ISP Bredbandsbolaget (Broadband Company) crashed and burned on Friday.
After a month of deliberations a unanimous Stockholm District Court found that Swedish legislation meets the requirements of the EU Infosoc directive. The actions of Bredbandsbolaget do not constitute its participation in infringements carried out by some of its ‘pirating’ subscribers, the Court found.
Considering the momentum around Europe towards blocking the decision in Sweden came as a surprise, not least to the copyright holders behind the case. Per Strömbäck of FTVS, the umbrella group behind the action, believes that illegal sites came out the winners on Friday.
“The ruling is a serious failing for the Swedish judicial system that is already falling behind. Swedish film and music creators deserve better,” Strömbäck says.
However, the movie, TV and record companies behind the action have no intention of giving up and as predicted will take their case to appeal.
“The Court has examined the legislation whose precise purpose is to give rights owners the opportunity to have Internet service providers stop illegal services from reaching Swedish internet users,” says Henrik Bengtsson, legal counsel for the plaintiffs in the case.
“Similar legislation already exists in the rest of Scandinavia as well as in much of Europe. We will appeal.”
The efforts to hold Bredbandsbolaget as accomplices to its subscribers’ ‘crimes’ means that the legal action against the ISP was the first of its kind in the country.
If it had succeeded, other ISPs in Sweden would have been subjected to similar conditions and demands to block other sites would’ve quickly followed. However, as the position stands today Bredbandsbolaget feels its stance as a mere conduit of information has been vindicated.
“We see it as positive that the district court did not consider that Internet operators are accomplices in crimes committed over the Internet. This is important for freedom of expression and the Swedish model of a free and open Internet,” says Anna Byström, Chief Legal Officer at Bredbandsbolaget parent company Telenor.
“We believe that the Court of Appeal will rule in our favor, and hope that this will put an end to this matter that could otherwise lead to ISPs needing to block more sites in the future.”
The plaintiffs will file their case with the Svea Court of Appeal before December 18, 2015.
The Pirate Bay is blocked by dozens of ISPs around Europe but anti-piracy outfits have always hoped that one day the notorious site would be rendered inaccessible in Sweden, its country of origin.
To that end, Universal Music, Sony Music, Warner Music, Nordisk Film and the Swedish Film Industry teamed up in a lawsuit last year designed to force Swedish ISP Bredbandsbolaget (Broadband Company) to block the site.
They claimed that the ISP should be held liable for the infringements of its customers, unless it blocks Pirate Bay.
Bredbandsbolaget flat out refused to comply, stating categorically that its only role is to provide customers with Internet access while facilitating the free-flow of information. The case went to trial and was heard in the Stockholm District Court during October. After nearly a month the Court has handed down its decision and its a huge win for the ISP and, indirectly, two famous pirate sites.
In a ruling handed down just minutes ago, the Stockholm District Court completely rejected rightsholder demands that Bredbandsbolaget should block its subscribers from accessing The Pirate Bay and streaming portal Swefilmer.
The Court reports that the case was heard in light of an EU directive which notes that member states shall ensure that rightholders have the possibility to ask for an injunction against intermediaries whose services are used by a third party to commit copyright infringement.
The District Court says that in its opinion Swedish legislation meets the requirements of the Infosoc directive. Furthermore, the Court also considers that the actions of Bredbandsbolaget do not constitute participation in crimes in accordance with Swedish law.
“A unanimous District Court considers, therefore, that it is not in a position to authorize such a ban as the rights holders want and therefore rejects their request,” said presiding Chief Magistrate Anders Dereborg.
Of course, there are higher courts in Sweden and it is very likely that’s where this case will end up. Today’s decision can be taken to the Svea Court of Appeal no later than December 18, 2015.
In the meantime the plaintiffs in the case must pay Bredbandsbolaget’s costs, expected to exceed US$160,000.
Breaking news story, updates to follow
Almost exactly one year ago, Universal Music, Sony Music, Warner Music, Nordisk Film and the Swedish Film Industry teamed up against Swedish ISP Bredbandsbolaget (Broadband Company).
In a lawsuit filed at the Stockholm District Court, the entertainment industry plaintiffs argued that Bredbandsbolaget should be held liable for Internet piracy carried out by its own subscribers. The companies argued that if the ISP wants avoid liability it should block its customers from accessing The Pirate Bay and streaming portal Swefilmer.
Telenor subsidiary Bredbandsbolaget (Broadband Company) has fought the action every step of the way and will find out at the end of November whether those efforts have paid off.
Should it prevail the decision will be a historic one – no other ISP in Europe (complex Netherlands’ case aside) has managed to avoid blocking The Pirate Bay following a legal battle. If the ISP loses (and the odds suggest that it will) the provider will be required to censor the site, something it is desperate to avoid.
In a joint statement this week Patrik Hofbauer, CEO of Telenor and Bredbandsbolaget, and Anna Bystrom, company legal counsel, warned that an adverse ruling could put the model of a free and open Internet at risk.
“When a judgment becomes precedent a trial is about so much more than an Internet service provider and two controversial websites,” the executives begin.
“If the media companies are given the right it will lead to absurd consequences and Internet subscribers will ultimately end up using a severely censored Internet.”
Hofbauer and Bystrom highlight the fact that should the case go the plaintiffs’ way, Bredbandsbolaget and other Internet providers will be regarded as accomplices to infringement committed on sites such as Swefilmer and The Pirate Bay. However, the implications stretch far beyond those two domains.
“A conviction that makes us criminals because we do not block these sites is very dangerous and opens a door must remain closed,” they explain.
“Moving forward, will ISPs then be forced to block social media if we are deemed to contribute to copyright infringement, threats and defamation that may occur there?”
Indeed, copyright is the tip of the iceberg. Could ISPs’ liability stretch further still, to controversial sites such as Wikileaks for example?
“Will sites where whistle-blowers can reach out with secret classified material also need to be blocked? If so, Sweden would then be subjected to a harsh level of censorship unique in the EU,” Hofbauer and Bystrom warn.
While the copyright holders in the legal action are clear on their goals, it’s clear that Bredbandsbolaget is concerned that this case represents the thin end of a wedge, one that starts with copyright but has the potential to expand into unforeseen areas. Once the genie is out of the bottle, the company argues, the threat to the open Internet could be great.
Bredbandsbolaget says the legal and ethical choices it is confronted with are not always easy ones and it sometimes finds itself in the middle of contradictory demands from legislators on one side and stakeholders on the other. But on this issue, initially involving The Pirate Bay but with the potential to spread much further, the ISP’s position has been easy.
“Our role in society should be about making information available and we can not risk engaging in censorship,” the ISP explains.
“When we faced pressure from individual players in this case, we put our values to the test. We are against piracy, but the idea that under threat of punishment ISPs must make assessments of the sites that Swedish people visit is absurd.”
In conclusion and while welcoming a positive outcome to the case, the executives say that if they’re forced to bend to the whims of outside influences, people may have to kiss goodbye to a free and open Internet.
“The day when we and other operators must be guided by private interests, that may represent the beginning of the end for what we in Sweden know as the open Internet. With that said, we welcome a decision that will hopefully strengthen our conviction,” Hofbauer and Bystrom conclude.
Whichever way it goes, there’s only two weeks left to find out.
With a long history that pre-dates the Internet, computer fans in Sweden have always been in the thick of various file-sharing scenes. If they weren’t sharing discs at swap meets, Swedes were sharing content via now-ancient BBS systems.
When the Internet came along things began to take off, but it wasn’t until the launch of The Pirate Bay in 2003 that Sweden was catapulted onto the world stage. However, after emerging as some of the world’s most passionate file-sharers, a new study has found that interest in the activity is trending downwards, despite 91% of the population being online.
Titled “Swedes and the Internet” the survey was carried out by The Internet Foundation In Sweden (IIS). The annual report aims to give a broad view of how local citizens use the Internet and reveals that not only is file-sharing on the wane, but consumption of legal content is maintaining its upward trend.
This year just 18% of respondents said that they share files on the Internet. According to IIS, the decrease is largest among those aged between 12 and 25, but in the 36 to 55 year-old group little has changed.
2015’s result represents a decrease on the 19% reported in last year’s survey and the second year in a row that file-sharing decreased in Sweden. 2014 marked the first drop in years, with 21% having been sustained since 2011.
Notably, one has to track back to the last decade in order to match the low-level of file-sharers currently active in 2015. But alongside file-sharing’s loss comes authorized content’s gain and there’s even an interesting twist for those looking to demonize Sweden’s remaining pirates.
In 2015, 70% of Internet users reported watching film and video content online, that’s up from the 52% in last year’s survey. A total of 40% of those who watch films online claim to pay for their content too, that’s up from just 14% in 2014.
According to the report Netflix is the major player, with 28% of the population watching the service, increasing to 47% among 26 to 35 year-olds.
Music remains popular too, with 77% listening to tracks on the Internet and just over half of all respondents (54%) paying for the privilege. The figures are impressive, having increased from 38% in 2014. In 2011 those paying sat at just 15%.
But customers come in all shapes and sizes and in common with similar surveys elsewhere, the IIS survey has found that pirates are some of the entertainment industry’s best customers.
In 2015, The Internet Foundation found that those who file-share movies illegally are also more likely to pay for legal video. In fact, 46% of pirates put their hands in their pockets to pay versus just 24% of non-filesharers.
In the music market the story is similar. When it comes to spending money on content, 58% of music pirates say they do so. Among non-filesharers the number drops to just 39%.
The report can be downloaded here (Swedish, PDF, 133 pages)
In September 2013, a coalition of Portuguese copyright trade groups announced they would file for an injunction to prevent ISPs from providing access to The Pirate Bay. They argued it would not pose a problem, since ISPs already filter to prevent access to criminal content such as abusive images.
It took more than 18 months for the Association for Copyright Management, Producers and Publishers (GEDIPE) to get its way but eventually the Intellectual Property Court gave ISPs Vodafone, MEO and NOS just 30 days to block The Pirate Bay.
While GEDIPE had its victory, the battle was still not won. Each time the group needed a site blocked in future it would have to take ISPs to court, an expensive and time-consuming process. Warning that it would do so if necessary, GEDIPE advised ISPs to enter into discussions to form a voluntary site-blocking mechanism instead.
“It is time to sit down and negotiate blocking measures that don’t require the courts to get involved,” GEDIPE boss Paulo Santos said.
ISPs initially objected to the idea saying that legitimate content could become blocked without legal oversight. Nevertheless, by this summer they were singing a very different tune.
In July the Ministry of Culture announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding between its own General Inspection of Cultural Activities (IGAC), the Portuguese Association of Telecommunication Operators (APRITEL), various rightsholder groups, the body responsible for administering Portugal’s .PT domain and representatives from the advertising industry.
The agreement would see local anti-piracy group MAPINET filing copyright complaints with the Ministry of Culture which in turn would conduct an assessment and then order ISPs to block sites. Importantly, no expensive courtroom argument would take place and no legal judgments would be handed down.
This week the agreement began to bite when 51 domain names connected to sites including KickassTorrents (Kat.cr), ExtraTorrent, Isohunt, YTS and RARBG were ordered to be blocked. However, there are now concerns over the legality of the process.
Speaking with the Economic Daily, intellectual property law expert Leonor Chastre, a partner at the Cuatrecasas, Gonçalves Pereira lawfirm, says he has doubts over the agreement and the actions taken under it.
“There are a number of entities that have signed the memorandum but it does not legitimize the role of the two main entities [the government and MAPINET] so they will not be able to determine what is legal and illegal in this field. The latter is a private entity, susceptible to external influences. What is the representativeness of that association and what is its intention?” he questions.
The argument that only a court is able to decide on the legality of a site is a common one that has played out in countries across Europe. Prolonged legal battles on that very topic have taken place in the Netherlands, Austria and currently Sweden, to name a few, so concerns that Portuguese authorities might be overstepping the mark are hardly a surprise.
Interestingly, MAPINET has a rather different perspective. The anti-piracy group says that laws already exist in the EU for blocking content when it’s deemed to be infringing copyright.
“The implementation of the E-Commerce Directive already includes procedures for removing illegal content,” MAPINET’s Miguel Carretas argues, adding that the purpose of the memorandum is to “regulate the application” of this legal provision.
“[ISPs] already had the power to block access to sites where illegitimacy is demonstrated,” Carretas says.
In response, Vodafone says that it “acts in accordance with the provisions of the law and the Memorandum of Understanding.” Other ISPs, MEO and Cabovisão, declined to comment.
The question now is how these concerns will develop. The most logical route for an intervention is for a site subjected to blocking to take the matter to court. That would be an expensive affair though and could involve challenging not only the government but also copyright holders and ISPs.
Nevertheless, a challenge is not without precedent. In 2013 Rapidgator was blocked in Italy following a broad crackdown on copyright infringement. The company hired local counsel to object and eventually won its case.
In Data and Goliath, I talk about the need for transparency, oversight, and accountability as the mechanism to allow surveillance when it is necessary, while preserving our security against excessive surveillance and surveillance abuse.
James Losey has a new paper that discusses the need for transparency in surveillance. His conclusion:
Available transparency reports from ICT companies demonstrate the rise in government requests to obtain user communications data. However, revelations on the surveillance capabilities of the United States, Sweden, the UK, and other countries demonstrate that the available data is insufficient and falls short of supporting rational debate. Companies can contribute by increasing granularity, particularly on the legal processes through which they are required to reveal user data. However, the greatest gaps remain in the information provided directly from governments. Current understanding of the scope of surveillance can be credited to whistleblowers risking prosecution in order to publicize illegitimate government activity. The lack of transparency on government access to communications data and the legal processes used undermines the legitimacy of the practices.
Transparency alone will not eliminate barriers to freedom of expression or harm to privacy resulting from overly broad surveillance. Transparency provides a window into the scope of current practices and additional measures are needed such as oversight and mechanisms for redress in cases of unlawful surveillance. Furthermore, international data collection results in the surveillance of individuals and communities beyond the scope of a national debate. Transparency offers a necessary first step, a foundation on which to examine current practices and contribute to a debate on human security and freedom. Transparency is not the sole responsibility of any one country, and governments, in addition to companies, are well positioned to provide accurate and timely data to support critical debate on policies and laws that result in censorship and surveillance. Supporting an informed debate should be the goal of all democratic nations.
Last November, Universal Music, Sony Music, Warner Music, Nordisk Film and the Swedish Film Industry teamed up against Swedish ISP Bredbandsbolaget (Broadband Company).
In a lawsuit filed at the Stockholm District Court, the entertainment industry plaintiffs argued that Bredbandsbolaget is liable for the Internet piracy carried out by its own subscribers. They say that if the ISP wants to free itself from blame, it should stop its customers accessing The Pirate Bay and streaming portal Swefilmer.
Bredbandsbolaget took just over a month to reject the demands of the entertainment industry groups, announcing that its only role is to provide customers with Internet access while facilitating the free-flow of information.
After a February 20, 2014 district court meeting between the parties concluded without consensus or formal agreement, a full trial was inevitable. That began yesterday in Stockholm, with Bredbandsbolaget facing off against a who’s who of movie and TV companies, local distributors, and the musical might of IFPI.
The plaintiffs’ position is clear. By failing to block its subscribers from accessing the sites, Bredbandsbolaget itself is facilitating copyright infringement and therefore liable to pay damages to the entertainment companies. Previously this aspect of the law has only been tested against file-sharing services such as The Pirate Bay.
Needless to say, the ISP is concerned not only by the copyright implications, but also the thin end of the wedge in respect of other crimes.
“It is dangerous if we are sentenced as accomplices or participants to crimes committed online. In this case it is about copyright infringement, but it is difficult to logically explain why it would stop at that,” company spokesperson Aron Samuelsson explains.
“If one takes the example of WikiLeaks one can easily argue that there is a spread of classified material taking place. Another parallel is on social media where there are threats, defamation and even copyright infringement. Do we have to act, even in those cases?”
Speaking on behalf of the plaintiffs, Per Strömbäck acknowledges the gravity of the case but dismisses fears that any ruling against the ISP will have wider implications.
“It is a question that must be taken seriously but in 13 other EU countries where rightsholders have won similar cases escalation hasn’t occurred,” Strömbäck says.
“This case applies specifically to copyright and it cannot be a surprise to anyone that there is an exceptionally large problem with copyright infringement online. We think it is reasonable for Swedish creators to have the same protection enjoyed by those neighboring countries.”
But while Strömbäck’s comments appear to limit the effect of the ruling in respect of other crimes, the scope in copyright remains enormous.
Should the court decide that Bredbandsbolaget is liable for infringements carried out by subscribers using The Pirate Bay, then by extension all local ISPs can be held liable in the same manner. Furthermore, if ISPs are liable for infringing Pirate Bay users, they can also be held liable for subscribers using every other unauthorized service.
This, of course, is where the floodgates open. If the plaintiffs prevail, all entertainment companies will be able to go to court in Sweden and demand that ISPs A to Z block file-sharing services 1 to 200 – and beyond. It’s a never-ending game that has seen hundreds of URLs blocked at the ISP level in the UK, mostly without any public scrutiny or oversight.
In 2013, famous anti-piracy prosecutor Fredrik Ingblad filed a motion targeting ThePirateBay.se (the site’s main domain) and PirateBay.se (a lesser used alternative).
Rather than take on the site itself, Ingblad filed a complaint against Punkt SE (IIS), the organization responsible for Sweden’s top level .SE domain.
Ingbland argued that since The Pirate Bay is an illegal operation, the site’s domains are tools used to infringe copyright. The prosecutor said that as the supplier and controller of those domains, IIS should be held liable for the copyright infringements associated with them.
Not surprisingly, IIS held the position that a registry should not be held liable for infringement and that any decision on the fate of a domain should be decided by the courts. As such, IIS flat-out refused to suspend Pirate Bay’s domains.
The case was finally heard this April and in May the Stockholm District Court ruled that The Pirate Bay should forfeit its Sweden-based domains, ThePirateBay.se and PirateBay.se. However, when considering his long-term aspirations beyond the Pirate Bay, the victory for the prosecutor lacked suitable punch.
All along, IIS said it understood the nature of The Pirate Bay and was prepared to take action against the site’s domains, if ordered to do so by a court. It’s a position taken by many organizations and companies, ISPs in particular, when asked to take anti-piracy actions in the absence of legal precedent.
Due to its refusal to terminate the Pirate Bay’s domains, the Stockholm Court found that IIS did indeed contribute to the copyright infringements of the site. However, as now explained by IIS counsel Elisabeth Ekstrand, it also noted the special circumstances of the case.
“[Unlike] an ISP that provides a service for financial gain, IIS has acted from a different point of view,” Ekstrand says.
“IIS has publicly announced and motivated its approach to the prosecutor’s motion, that is to say that we have no obligation to act but rather an obligation not to act without a direct order (for example, from a law enforcement agency).
“The statement is based on the view that the assignment of managing an important function in society does not include judging over whether an individual case can be considered illegal or not.”
Essentially, IIS believes that it wasn’t its responsibility to decide whether a domain should or should not be closed down and that requesting an official ruling from the court was the proper way of going about things. Ultimately the court agreed that the position taken by IIS was both legitimate and justified.
This meant that although The Pirate Bay’s domains were ordered to be seized, the case against IIS was rejected, with the District Court dismissing the prosecution’s case and awarding the registry close to $40,000 (SEK 332,000) in costs.
It’s now clear that the prosecution is unhappy with the outcome and will take the case to trial at the Court of Appeal. TorrentFreak has contacted Fredrik Ingblad in an effort to find out his precise grounds for appeal and will update this article when those arrive.
In the meantime, however, it seems likely that the prospect of heading to court each and every time the government wants to seize a ‘pirate’ domain is proving too much of a headache.
As it stands today, IIS is considered to be acting reasonably when it refuses to suspend a domain without an explicit instruction from a court or the police, for example. And having gone down that road with The Pirate Bay once before (and being quite vocal while doing so), all the signs point to the registry applying similar standards in future.
“A decision in the Court of Appeals trumps a decision in the District Court, which can mean that we, or the prosecution depending on who ‘wins’, will get a stronger support for their way of looking at it,” Ekstrand concludes.
No date has yet been set for the trial.
Gottfrid Svartholm, also known as Anakata, was a founding member of The Pirate Bay and played a key role during the site’s early years.
He has spent the last three years in prisons in Sweden and Denmark, for a variety of offenses. Last month his prison time in Denmark ended and after serving a final month in Sweden he is now a free man.
At this time Gottfrid and his family prefer not to make any public statements, which is understandable considering all that’s happened, but his mother just confirmed the good news.
His release marks the end of a tough time with several consecutive setbacks.
It all started in 2011 when Gottfrid received a one-year prison sentence for his involvement with the notorious site, which he initially avoided.
September 2012 he was arrested by Cambodian police in Phnom Penh, the city where he had been living for several years. A few days later he was transferred to Sweden to serve his sentence, but that was only the start.
Soon after his release the Pirate Bay founder was accused of several hacking and fraud offenses.
The case went to trial in 2013 and Gottfrid was subsequently found guilty of hacking, aggravated fraud and attempted aggravated fraud, which resulted in a two-year prison sentence. The Pirate Bay founder always maintained his innocence and went on to appeal the verdict.
The Appeal Court agreed in part and cleared Gottfrid of hacking the Nordea bank. The court still found him guilty of hacking IT company Logica but decided to reduce his sentence from two years to one.
While he was serving the Swedish hacking sentence Denmark also went after Gottfrid. Despite public protests and an appeal to the Supreme Court in Sweden, he was extradited during the fall of 2013 and held in solitary confinement for weeks on end.
In Denmark the Pirate Bay founder stood accused of hacking into the mainframe computers of IT company CSC. Gottfrid denied these allegations and during trial he pointed out that Sweden previously acquitted him of a similar offense.
As in many other countries, well-behaved convicts only have to serve part of their sentence in Denmark so Gottfrid was released last month.
That’s also when the latest setback was announced. Shortly after his release he was arrested again to serve one remaining month of his hacking sentence in Sweden.
Today Gottfrid is truly a free man again. While prison wasn’t easy for him and his family, the future is finally looking a bit brighter.
Over the past years Gottfrid has received a lot of support from the public, but first and foremost from his mother Kristina, who stood beside him every step of the way and always was kind enough to answer questions and have her son’s voice heard outside of prison.
December last year The Pirate Bay went dark after police raided the Nacka station, a nuclear-proof datacenter built into a mountain complex.
Around the same time one of Pirate Bay’s moderators was arrested, fueling the idea that the site had been seriously compromised.
The events resulted in the longest ever period of downtime for the site, nearly two months, and led to a revolt among the site’s moderators.
While it was generally believed that Pirate Bay needed time to recover the site from various backups, TorrentFreak can now reveal that this was not the case. In fact, Pirate Bay’s servers were never raided by the police.
The police did raid the Nacka datacenter but instead of Pirate Bay’s servers they raided those of EZTV. Sladinki007 of the former EZTV team confirmed that their hardware was indeed taken, but the Pirate Bay team says they were barely hit.
Only one Pirate Bay related server was confiscated last December, which was hosted at a different location. This (crew.thepiratebay.org) was operated by the moderators and used as a communication channel for TPB matters.
The Pirate Bay team believes that it may not have been the prime target of last year’s raid, and if they were, then the police followed the wrong lead. Pirate Bay’s servers were and are hosted in the cloud, outside of Sweden.
But if TPB wasn’t raided, why did it have to go offline?
According to the TPB team they decided to pull everything offline as a precaution. It was unclear how much information was held on the crew server and if there was a breach of trust after one of the moderators was arrested.
The TPB team feared that the locations of the servers could have been compromised as well and prepared to move everything over to new cloud hosting providers.
Relocating the site proved to be harder than initially anticipated though. In fact, technical challenges were one of the main reasons for the long downtime. All the data was there, it just had to be setup correctly. So, at the same time the team decided to revise the backend code to better handle the new cloud environment.
The lack of data loss already became apparent when the site returned online in February, as all recent torrents and comments were still there.
TF also asked about the cryptic messages TPB communicated during the downtime, and we were informed that they were put there “for fun.” The messages were not a way to communicate with people, but simply a link to a Arnold Schwarzenegger “i’ll be back” montage video on YouTube.
In addition to The Pirate Bay, several related sites including Bayimg, Bayfiles and Pastebay also went dark. These sites are still offline today and we are informed that this is an issue of ‘resources’ and ‘priorities,’ not because any data is missing.
So why reveal all this now?
The TPB team says it waited this long to make sure that they were not compromised in any way. This was also the main reason why the site’s moderators were left in the dark for such a long time and why the Suprbay forums remained offline.
Since more than nine months have now passed, it’s finally time to reveal what really happened. Police may still believe that they have the encrypted Pirate Bay servers, but according to the people behind the site they have nothing substantial.
Given today’s revelations it’s unlikely that the raid will help police to mount a new case against The Pirate Bay, as they were planning. Time will tell whether the authorities will try to hit the site again.
There’s a theory among anti-piracy organizations that if unauthorized sites like The Pirate Bay can be separated from their finances they’ll eventually become a burden to their operators and close down.
This “follow the money” approach is gaining momentum worldwide and is largely centered on the companies financing pirate sites with their advertising spend.
Last week Sweden became the latest country to launch an initiative designed to stop ads appearing on torrent, streaming and other related sites. A partnership between anti-piracy outfit Rights Alliance and advertising association Swedish Advertisers, the partnership has clear aims.
“The aim of the project is to raise awareness, so that advertisers/brands don´t end up on the wrong sites and also to try to stop money from legal companies flowing to illegal sites,” Sara Lindbäck from Rights Alliance informs TorrentFreak.
To that end, Swedish Advertisers have come up with a set of recommendations designed to keep ads away from unlicensed sites. They include observing good ethics, avoiding advertising contracts that include bulk sales, and considering where ads are ultimately placed, beyond simply targeting a specific audience at a certain price.
According to the advertising association the initiative has been well received. As a result they’ve publicly announced the first batch of sites to be added to their fledgling ‘pirate blacklist’, a boycott which will be observed by around 600 advertisers.
“The recommendations have become very popular so now we are taking this a step further by naming movie sites where serious advertisers’ brands certainly should not be seen,” says Anders Ericson, CEO of Swedish Advertisers.
Topping the list in terms of popularity is The Pirate Bay, the Swedish born torrent site that simply refuses to die. Nine others currently being named are Dreamfilmhd.org, Sweflix.to, Swefilmer.ws, Swefilm.tv, Swesub.tv, Laddanerfilmer.com, Svenskafilmer.nu, Undertexter.se and film365.se.
“There has been an evolvement over time where the illegal sites are getting more and more commercial and getting substantial amounts from advertisements,” Lindbäck says.
“For example in the Swefilmer case where 13 million SEK ($1.57m) has been traced through the advertisement broker/platforms.”
The majority of the sites present on the blacklist do indeed contain large amounts of advertising, sometimes to the point where they become somewhat irritating to use. Nevertheless, that doesn’t stop big brands from advertising on them.
Dreamfilmhd, for example, carries advertising for Bet365 and Coral, two well-known gambling companies regularly featured on other pirate sites.
Interestingly, another ‘offender’ is Sky Bet. This gambling outfit is owned by British Sky Broadcasting, a massive media company whose parent is 21st Century Fox. Their somewhat hypocritical popup ad is shown below.
In order to suffer the full onslaught of advertisers, TF fired up an unprotected browser and deliberately clicked around on the sites in question to see what kind of ads we could discover. Major advertisers already seem few and far between but there is work to be done.
Largely though it’s a miserable user experience, with popups, popunders, ads for scammy fake download sites, plus get-rich-quick schemes regularly bombarding the senses. As schemes like this one in Sweden and others around the world really begin to bite, expect more of the same.
Pirate sites will almost certainly be able to find advertisers willing to put hands in pockets but as times get tough, the quality of those ads is likely to deteriorate even further still. With that, user experience will also decline. Will pirates put up with the junk? Time will tell.
Over the past several years Hollywood and its counterparts in the worldwide music industry have made huge strides in their efforts to complicate user access to so-called ‘pirate’ sites.
The theory is that if consumers find sites like The Pirate Bay more difficult to find, then the chances of those people buying official content will increase.
The first unlicensed site (AllofMP3) was ordered blocked in Denmark in 2006, and ever since rightsholders have been thirsty for more.
For almost a decade and with increasing frequency since 2010, site-blocking has been in the news, mainly centered around actions against torrent sites. In most cases of rightsholders testing the judicial waters around Europe, The Pirate Bay has been used as the guinea pig. History tells us that once The Pirate Bay gets blocked, the floodgates are well and truly open.
Although we’ve reported on every site-blocking court battle around Europe (including some that have been held behind closed doors), there are no publicly available central resources that provide an accurate overview of how many sites are blocked in each country. It doesn’t help that in UK, for example, rightsholders add sites to existing court orders without any fresh announcement.
Yesterday, however, the MPAA’s international variant, MPA Europe, provided some interesting numbers which highlight the extent of site-blocking on copyright grounds on the continent. The presentation, made by Deputy General Counsel Okke Visser at the iCLIC Conference in Southampton, UK, included the slide below.
What the image shows is a total of 504 instances of web-blocking across Europe. It’s worth noting that some of the instances are duplicates, since sites like Pirate Bay and KickassTorrents are blocked in multiple regions. Also, it appears that proxies aren’t included in the total.
The region with by far the greatest number of blockades is Italy, down in the south of Europe with 238 instances. The country’s AGCOM agency has been ordering sites to be blocked at an alarming rate, with no trials needed for a blackout.
However, things haven’t necessarily been going to plan. Research carried out in Italy found that blocking only increased blocked websites’ popularity, via the so-called “Streisand Effect”.
It’s no surprise that the UK takes second place with 135 instances of blocking. Today they’re being ordered on behalf of Hollywood, the music industry, book publishers, sports broadcasters and even watch manufacturers.
The very first site to be blocked in the country on copyright grounds was defunct Usenet indexer Newzbin/2. The official process began in 2010 when MPA Europe, citing legal action in Denmark, asked local ISP BT to block the site. Subsequent court action resulted in an injunction and the floodgates were open for dozens of additional demands.
After being the site-blocking pioneer of Europe, Denmark now has 41 instances of site-blocking according to the MPAA. Earlier this year a large batch of torrent and streaming sites were blocked, followed by a second wave in August.
When new legislation came into effect in Spain in January, site-blocking was bound to follow.
Sure enough, in March 2015 local ISPs were given 72 hours to block The Pirate Bay and in April a block of a popular music site followed. According to MPA Europe, Spain now has 24 instances of blocking.
While blocking measures are in place across the whole of the far west of Europe, thus far plenty of countries are holding their ground. In the north, Sweden is currently block-free, but that could all change depending on the outcome of pending legal action.
Slightly to the east, Germany has no blocks and to date there has been little discussion on the topic in Poland or Romania. However, neighbor Austria now has six instances of blocking after the movie industry won a protracted legal battle against The Pirate Bay and other sites.
Instances of copyright-related site-blocking across Europe
#1 – Italy (238)
#2 – United Kingdom (135)
#3 – Denmark (41)
#4 – Spain (24)
#5 – France (18) (ref)
#6 – Portugal (15) (ref 1,2)
#7 – Belgium (13) (ref 1,2)
#8 – Norway (7) (ref)
#9 – Austria (6)
#10 – Ireland (2) (ref 1,2)
#10 – Greece (2) (ref)
#10 – Iceland (2) (ref)
#11 – Finland (1) (ref)
Early September the Oslo District Court followed in the footsteps of other courts around Europe by ordering local ISPs to block several pirate sites.
The action came after Hollywood studios including Warner, Paramount, Fox, Universal, Sony, Disney and Columbia successfully argued that The Pirate Bay, ExtraTorrent, Viooz, PrimeWire, Swefilmer, DreamFilm and Movie4K should be off-limits to Norwegian consumers.
While ISPs are yet to fully implement the international headline-grabbing blockade, it appears that the message that these sites are effectively banned hasn’t reached some prominent advertisers.
For example, in what is likely to be an embarrassment to local authorities, during the past few days adverts for NSB, the Norwegian government-owned national railway system, have been appearing on prominent unauthorized streaming portal PrimeWire.
Furthermore, ads for Norway’s leading tourist attraction, the Kristiansand Zoo and Amusement Park, have also being appearing on the popular and soon-to-be-blocked site.
Interestingly enough they feature a character known as Captain Sabertooth. The star of the most expensive children’s movie in Norwegian history, Sabertooth is also the country’s most famous pirate and the centerpiece of kids’ TV series, stage plays and books.
Speaking with NRK, the outlet that spotted the bloopers, Rights Alliance chief Willy Johansen says that legitimate companies are inadvertently helping to fund pirate sites.
“Illegal websites earn big money from advertising. This is not good at all,” the anti-piracy chief says.
“The media agencies around Europe are spreading ads to hit a certain number of people, without looking at where they’re placing them. In this respect media agencies need to sharpen their approach.”
The revelations are also proving a disappointment to the companies whose ads appeared on PrimeWire.
Annie B. Schjøtt, Sales and Marketing Manager at Kristiansand Zoo and Amusement Park, says it was never their intention to place ads on pirate sites.
“We totally renounce such [pirate] sites. We are a cultural operation ourselves, and we absolutely did not want to be involved in supporting people who copy other people’s work,” Schjøtt says.
A communications manager at government-owned railway company NSB described the situation as “regrettable.”
While no one is suggesting that the companies deliberately targeted pirate sites, somehow their advertising spend is being funneled to sites that have been deemed to operate illegally. So how did they get there? Apparently that’s the indirect responsibility of Carat, the media agency which handled the ads.
Digital Strategy Director Erik Solberg says that the ads were placed through an intermediary but the company is working hard to ensure there are no more embarrassments.
“We can only deplore this. We have closed all the activity of the subcontractor in the network,” Solberg explains. “We are working diligently to make sure this does not happen again. The supplier is a major international advertising network.”
The timing of these revelations could prompt a more urgent approach to tackling the pirate site advertising issue in Norway. Just yesterday in neighboring Sweden, Rights Alliance and national advertising association Swedish Advertisers announced new guidelines to help companies keep their ads off illicit sites.
“It appears that advertisers’ logos, trademarks and advertisements – often without the advertiser’s knowledge – are ending up on illegal sites,” said Swedish Advertisers legal advisor Tobias Eltell.
“It may be a question of sites that provide video, images, text and music without the rights holders’ consent. For serious advertisers, this may become a huge problem and therefore Swedish Advertisers have developed recommendations that may be helpful for advertisers.”
The guidelines (Swedish) include observing good ethics, boycotting advertising contracts that include bulk sales, and insisting that ads are not only targeted at a specific audience at a certain price, but also determining where those ads are ultimately placed.
For many years Sweden was one of the most prominent battlegrounds in the global file-sharing wars, playing host to dozens of unlicensed sites including the notorious Pirate Bay. As a result, Universal Music Sweden MD Per Sundin knows a thing or two about piracy.
A key figure in the now-famous prosecution of The Pirate Bay, Sundin was one of the site’s harshest critics and one of many desperate to bring both the platform and its operators to their knees.
But despite a herculean effort from Sundin and others, The Pirate Bay not only lived through a trial and subsequent appeals, it outlived even its own founders who each served prison sentences for their crimes. Today the site may not quite hold the status it once did, but it’s certainly a major player in the file-sharing ecosystem.
If Sundin remains bothered by the Pirate Bay’s resilience he isn’t letting it show, but it’s clear that he’s picked up plenty of experience along the way. In an interview with MBW, Sundin suggests that no matter what obstacles are put in file-sharing’s way, pirates will always adapt.
“We will see piracy in the future,” Sundin says.
“The pirate site owners will get smarter and find ways around [restrictions]. If we close down one, another will pop up. That’s a fact of life.”
This admission from Sundin is not the usual thing one hears from high-powered music executives, especially those so close to the powerful anti-piracy forces of IFPI. However, Sundin is part of a revitalized local music market that projects Sweden’s success story onto the world stage, despite massive historical piracy.
According to figures from IFPI, the Swedish music revenues bounced from a low of US$144.8 million in 2008 to US$194.2 million in 2013. During the same period, digital music revenues increased from just 8% to a huge 70%, with subscription services accounting for 94% of the digital market.
“[In] 2009, we had The Pirate Bay trial and verdict; we had the [anti-piracy] enforcement directive implemented; and we had Spotify, which launched in October 2008. It was the perfect storm,” Sundin explains.
“Thanks to that – especially Spotify, I would say – we were taken out of the dark times. We went from bad boys to something much better.”
Despite Sundin’s comments concerning the difficulty of permanently blocking or shutting down sites, he remains optimistic about confronting piracy. However, rather than relying entirely on the stick, the industry veteran now openly acknowledges that beating the pirates at their own game is a better option.
“We have to help legal services, Spotify and others, be better,” Sundin says.
Interestingly – and this has been a talking point in recent weeks – Sundin also expresses concern surrounding the prevalence of ‘exclusives’ on legitimate services, such as those recently negotiated with Apple by Black Eyed Peas and Dr Dre.
“I think the exclusivity thing is dangerous – that’s my personal opinion. Hopefully we won’t see it so much,” Sundin says.
The Universal man’s thoughts are shared by Mark Dennis, Managing Director of Sony Music Sweden.
“We have to learn from what’s happened in the past: when people haven’t been able to consume music in the way they want, they turn to piracy. We’re just not learning!”
If piracy is to be kept under control long-term then such lessons will have to be learned, but whether the message will take a long or short time to sink in is another matter. History suggests later rather than sooner, but attitudes are changing.
Nevertheless, with appetites whetted, millions of people are now eagerly anticipating tomorrow’s super-advanced version of Spotify and other services that simply haven’t been envisioned yet. But whatever arrives, innovation is definitely the key, and one gets the impression that the Swedes really get that.
Back in June after a highly technical court hearing, a jury at the Appeal Court in Denmark again found Gottfrid Svartholm guilty of hacking IT company CSC.
The ruling meant that the Pirate Bay founder had no further avenues for appeal, despite continuing to protest his innocence.
However, due to how the appeals process played out, Gottfrid’s jail sentence was close to completion anyway, meaning that the Swede would be up for parole middle to late August.
Yesterday morning and after several long years Gottfrid completed his Danish prison sentence, but freedom didn’t await the Pirate Bay founder. Rather than leaving Denmark a free man, Gottfrid was immediately re-arrested by the police. The disappointment wasn’t entirely unexpected, however.
In June, Gottfrid’s mother, Kristina Svartholm, informed TorrentFreak that the Swedish Prison and Probation service had requested an arrest warrant for her son. The problem was that when Swedish authorities sent Gottfrid to Denmark after serving his earlier sentence, he hadn’t actually completed his sentence back home. Four weeks remained.
“[This was] never communicated properly to Gottfrid, neither from Sweden nor Denmark. We found out about it on our own,” Kristina informs TF.
Making matters worse, Gottfrid was only advised 48 hours before his supposed release date this week that in fact he’d remain in custody.
“Tuesday this week, two days before his release date (which was officially communicated to him only some two weeks ago) Gottfrid was informed that the Danish prosecutor had decided that he should be handed over because of the warrant,” Kristina informs TF.
Always a fighter, Gottfrid is in a Danish court this morning appealing his arrest and the decision to send him to Sweden, but news of the outcome has yet to reach Kristina. Swedish authorities previously filed a request for the remaining sentence to be served in Denmark but that was refused by the Danes.
If successful this morning Gottfrid might be able to serve the sentence in a Danish prison. Should the appeal fail, Gottfrid will be extradited back to Sweden where he is expected to serve around a month before being released.
What happens after his ultimate release will be up to Gottfrid, but he certainly won’t be returning to Denmark. The Pirate Bay founder is banned from the country for life, something that presents travel difficulties for a Scandinavian looking to visit countries elsewhere in Europe by land.
Nevetheless, plenty of other options remain open, including ones that simply require a screen and an Internet connection.
“What Gottfrid wants to do now, more than anything else, is to get back to his developmental work within IT (graphics etc),” Kristina previously told TF.
“And, of course, first of all: to sit by a keyboard again after nearly three years away from one.”
I’m speaking at an Infoedge event at Bali Hai Golf Club in Las Vegas, at 5 PM on August 5, 2015.
I’m speaking at DefCon 23 on Friday, August 7, 2015.
I’m speaking — remotely via Skype — at LinuxCon in Seattle on August 18, 2015.
I’m speaking at CloudSec in Singapore on August 25, 2015.
I’m speaking at MindTheSec in São Paulo, Brazil on August 27, 2015.
I’m speaking on the future of privacy at a public seminar sponsored by the Institute for Future Studies, in Stockholm, Sweden on September 21, 2015.
I’m speaking at Next Generation Threats 2015 in Stockholm, Sweden on September 22, 2015.
I’m speaking at Next Generation Threats 2015 in Gothenburg, Sweden on September 23, 2015.
I’m speaking at Free and Safe in Cyberspace in Brussels on September 24, 2015.
I’ll be on a panel at Privacy. Security. Risk. 2015 in Las Vegas on September 30, 2015.
I’m speaking at the Privacy + Security Forum, October 21-23, 2015 at The Marvin Center in Washington, DC.
I’m speaking at the Boston Book Festival on October 24, 2015.
I’m speaking at the 4th Annual Cloud Security Congress EMEA in Berlin on November 17, 2015.
While millions associate Sweden with BitTorrent through its connections with The Pirate Bay, over the past several years the public has increasingly been obtaining its content in other ways.
Thanks to cheap bandwidth and an appetite for instant gratification, so-called streaming portals have grown in popularity, with movies and TV shows just a couple of clicks away in convenient Netflix-style interfaces.
Founded in 2011, Swefilmer is currently Sweden’s most popular streaming movie and TV show site. Research last year from Media Vision claimed that 25% of all web TV viewing in the country was carried out on Swefilmer and another similar site, Dreamfilm.
According to Alexa the site is currently the country’s 100th most popular domain, but in the next three days it will shut down for good.
The revelation comes from the site’s admin, who has just been revealed as local man Ola Johansson. He says that a surprise and unwelcome visit made it clear that he could not continue.
In a YouTube video posted yesterday, Johansson reports that earlier this month he was raided by the police who seized various items of computer equipment and placed him under arrest.
“It’s been a tough month to say the least. On 8 July, I received a search by the police at home. I lost a computer, mobile phone and other things,” Johansson says.
While most suspects in similar cases are released after a few hours or perhaps overnight, Johansson says he was subjected to an extended detention.
“I got to sit in jail for 90 hours. When I came out on Monday [after being raided on Wednesday] the site had been down since Friday,” he explains.
The Swede said he noticed something was amiss at the beginning of July when he began experiencing problems with the Russian server that was used to host the site’s videos.
“It started when all things from OK.ru disappeared. That’s the service where we have uploaded all the videos,” Johansson says.
While the site remains online for now, the Swede says that this Friday Swefilmer will close down for good. The closure will mark the end of an era but since he is now facing a criminal prosecution that’s likely to conclude in a high-profile trial, Johansson has little choice but to pull the plug.
The site’s considerable userbase will be disappointed with the outcome but there are others that are welcoming the crackdown.
“We are not an anonymous Hollywood studio,” said local director Anders Nilsson in response to the news.
“We are a group of film makers and we will not give up when someone spits in our faces by stealing our movies and putting them on criminal sites to share them in the free world. It is just as insulting as if someone had stolen the purely physical property.”
Aside from creating a gap in the unauthorized streaming market, the forthcoming closure of Swefilmer will have repercussions in the courtroom too, particularly concerning an important legal process currently playing out in Sweden.
Last November, Universal Music, Sony Music, Warner Music, Nordisk Film and the Swedish Film Industry filed a lawsuit in the Stockholm District Court against local ISP Bredbandsbolaget (The Broadband Company). It demands that the ISP blocks subscriber access to The Pirate Bay and also Swefilmer.
Even after negotiation Bredbandsbolaget refused to comply, so the parties will now meet in an October hearing to determine the future of website blocking in Sweden.
It is believed that the plaintiffs in the case were keen to tackle a torrent site and a streaming site in the same process but whether Swefilmer will now be replaced by another site is currently unknown. If it does, Dreamfilm could be the most likely candidate.
After tracking down hundreds of Internet pirates over the years, a case that came to a head at the turn of the decade was shaping up to be one of the most important for anti-piracy group Antipiratbyrån (now Rights Alliance).
More often focused on lower-hanging fruit, Antipiratbyrån had their eyes on the “warez scene”, the people and infrastructure at the very top of the so-called “piracy pyramid” from where content trickles down to the masses.
In 2010 and following a lengthy investigation by Antipiratbyrån, police raided a topsite known as ‘Devil’. Topsites are top-secret, high-speed servers used by piracy release groups and their affiliates for storing and distributing unauthorized copyrighted content. When Devil went down dozens of servers were seized, together containing an estimated 250 terabytes of pirate content.
One man was also arrested but it took until 2014 for him to be charged with unlawfully making content available “intentionally or by gross negligence.”
According to police the 50-something year old man from Väsby, Sweden, acted “in consultation or in concert with other persons, supplied, installed, programmed, maintained, funded and otherwise administered and managed” the Devil file-sharing network. Before its shutdown, Devil was reported to service around 200 elite members.
Considering Antipiratbyrån’s links with the movie industry it came as no surprise that the charges included the unlawful making available of 2,250 mainly Hollywood movies. According to the prosecutor, those numbers made the case a record breaker.
“We have not prosecuted for this many movies in the past. There are many movies and large data set,” prosecutor Fredrik Ingblad commented earlier. “It is also the largest analysis of computers ever made in an individual case.”
Given the scale of the case it was expected that punishments would be equally harsh but things did not play out that way.
Despite admitting that he operated servers at his home and in central Stockholm and the court acknowledging that rightsholders had suffered great damage, the man has just been sentenced to probation and 160 hours of community service.
According to Mitti.se, two key elements appear to have kept the man’s punishment down. Firstly, he cooperated with police in the investigation. Secondly – and this is a feature in many file-sharing prosecutions – the case simply dragged on for too long.
“It is worrying that the bottleneck at the police has affected the sentence,” says Sara Lindbäck of Rights Alliance.
Defense lawyer Henrik Olsson Lilja says that he’s pleased his client has avoided jail but adds that no decision has yet been made on any appeal. That being said, an end to the criminal case doesn’t necessarily mean the matter is completely over.
Last year Rights Alliance indicated that the six main studios behind the prosecution might initiate a civil action against the man and demand between $673,400 and $2.69m per title infringed, albeit on a smaller sample-sized selection of the 2,250 movies involved in the case.
No announcement has been made on that front and Rights Alliance did not respond to our requests for comment.
There can be little doubt that The Pirate Bay is the most infamous torrent site of all time. Its attitude towards copyright and related laws has landed the site and its operators in endless legal trouble for more than a decade, conflict that continues today.
Following the convictions of The Pirate Bay Four – co-founders Gottfrid Svartholm and Fredrik Neij, former site spokesman Peter Sunde, and site financier Carl Lundström – most legal matters involving the site have been connected to local ISP blocking injunctions. Nevertheless, a separate legal process against the men themselves has persisted in Belgium.
Unusually, the case was based in criminal law, with Svartholm, Neij, Sunde and Lundström all standing accused of a range of crimes including criminal copyright infringement and abuse of electronic communications. However, the case itself has always experienced problems.
All four defendants deny having had anything to do with the site since its reported sale to a Seychelles-based company called Reservella in 2006. That has proven problematic, since the period in which the four allegedly committed the crimes detailed in the Belgian case spans September 2011 and November 2013.
Having failed to connect the quartet with the site’s operations during that period, the case has now fallen apart. Yesterday a judge at the Mechelse Court ruled that it could not be proven that the four were involved in the site during the period in question.
Indeed, for at least a year of that period, Svartholm was in jail in Sweden while connecting Lundström to the site a decade after his last involvement (which was purely financial) has always been somewhat ridiculous.
In the end, even the site’s anti-piracy adversaries in the case agreed with the decision.
“Technically speaking, we agree with the court,” said Olivier Maeterlinck, director of the Belgian Entertainment Association (BEA).
Following their convictions for copyright infringement, Pirate Bay co-founders Gottfrid Svartholm and Fredrik Neij, former site spokesman Peter Sunde, and site financier Carl Lundström owed considerable amounts in damages.
After the 2008 appeal which resulted in reduced jail time but increased financial penalties, collectively the quartet owed 46 million kronor ($5.4m) to the movie and record company plaintiffs in the case. That amount has been accruing interest since the original shutdown of The Pirate Bay in May 2006.
By February 2012 the total owed had reached 73 million kronor. Now, more than nine years after the now-infamous raid, it stands at 86 million kronor, or $10 million. Very soon the amount will be double the original damages award.
While all have now completed their custodial sentences (Svartholm technically has a few extra weeks), neither has paid back a single penny of the money owed. This hardly comes as a surprise. While Svartholm and Neij have been less vocal, on a number of occasions Peter Sunde has made it clear that the money will never be repaid.
Now, thanks to a visit to his home in Switzerland by Swedish newspaper Expressen, Carl Lundström has broken his silence. The former multi-millionaire lives with his family in the town of Wetzikon located a few miles outside Zurich and he told the publication he enjoys his life there.
“I have it good in Switzerland,” Lundström said.
One of the reasons why the 55-year-old has avoided paying his debts is that in 2012 he filed for personal bankruptcy. A year later he was declared bankrupt in Switzerland, despite allegations that the businessman had previously transferred all of his assets to his wife Bettina.
With the Motion Picture Association still keen to retrieve its cash, in 2013 the group admitted it was keeping a close eye on Lundström. But thus far it appears that effort is yet to bear fruit, with the Swede seemingly quite aware of his delicate situation.
Speaking on the doorstep of a several hundred square meter villa, Lundström – who made a small fortune in the 80s when the family crispbread business was sold for around 77 million kronor ($9m) – explained a little about his homing situation.
“It is my wife who rents two floors in this house. I’m just living here,” he explained.
And it appears that others around Lundström have also been make preparations to keep money away from copyright holders in the music and movie industries.
According to Expressen, Lundström’s mother Gwen Lundström recently passed away and in her Last Will and Testament she made it clear that any assets should transfer to her grandchildren. Additionally, specific clauses made it clear that any assets were not be used to pay legal debts.
Ultimately, however, Lundström refused to discuss his massive debts back in Sweden, smiling and answering a simple “No” when asked if he missed the country.
In a few months, the bailiffs will again start investigating Lundström to see if he has any assets but it seems unlikely anything will be found. Back in Sweden, movie studio Yellow Bird moved to have both Gottfrid Svartholm and Fredrik Neij declared bankrupt in 2012 and 2013 but there was little to nothing to take.
Whether copyright holders will ever get to see a penny of the millions owed is up for debate, but it’s safe to say that there is no appetite among the ‘Pirate Bay Four’ to run to Hollywood with bundles of cash.
Fredrik Neij, one of The Pirate Bay’s co-founders, was released early last month after serving a 10-month prison sentence for his involvement with the site.
A few days ago Fredrik arrived back home in Laos, where he’s enjoying his family and an unlimited stock of beer to get his liver back on track.
TF had the chance to catch up with the Swede to see how prison life treated him and the answers we received may surprise some. While it’s never fun to be locked up, Fredrik says it was worth doing time for The Pirate Bay.
“Things were not too bad in prison,” Fredrik tells TF. “It was well worth doing prison time for The Pirate Bay, when you consider how much the site means to people,” Fredrik says.
The prisons in Sweden are nothing like those seen in Hollywood blockbusters. He had plenty of space and privacy and no bars on the door.
“Like most people I only knew about prisons from American movies. Now that I have some firsthand experience I am happy to say it’s quite different. Unlike the barred cages for two persons in the movies, here I have my own private room that’s 10 square meters, with a real door and no bars on the window.”
Fredrik compares his cell to a cabin on a cruise ship, but one with a shitty view. Instead of seeing beautiful coastlines and picturesque bays, he was looking at a prison wall with barbed wire on top, and agricultural fields in the distance.
The cell itself had a private toilet and shower as well as some space for personal items. There were two bulletin boards as well, one with photos of his kids and family and another one for all the fan mail he received.
Although the prison management denied him access to his classic 8-bit Nintendo console, there was plenty of entertainment around. The room came equipped with a Samsung smart TV and Fredrik was also allowed to have newer game consoles.
As a Sci-Fi addict, Fredrik was also happy that “some people” managed to smuggle digital content inside.
“I watched a lot of TV-series and movies on smuggled in USB sticks and MicroSD cards, which is a nice way to kill some time, watching Archer, Futurama, Firefly and other Sci-Fi,” Fredrik says.
On the music front Pirate Bay’s co-founder was thrown back two decades, spinning CDs in an ancient Discman. Music he actually had to pay for.
“Listening to music on a Discman gave me flashbacks to how life was before MP3s, with short battery-life and having to change CD to listen to different artists. Also it was probably the first legal music I bought this millennium.”
The lockup hours were between 7am and 7pm and inmates were allowed to put out their own lights, so games could be played all night. During weekdays Fredrik had to work for three hours as well, putting pieces of wood into a laser etching machine.
The best times of the week were without a doubt the visiting hours, especially when they overlapped with work. Talking to friends and family was a welcome distraction, either in person or on the phone, which Fredrik could have in his room a few times per week.
There were also a lot of people writing in. Not just with words of support, but also to keep him updated on news in the real world, including TF articles.
“To keep up to date with the outside world, friends and family sent me newspapers, magazines and printouts of online media such as TorrentFreak! I also spent a lot of time reading all news-clippings, books and tech- science- and computer magazines I received from fans.”
Fredrik was locked up in the medium security prison in Skänninge where he was the only convict doing time for a “virtual” crime.
“Most other guys were in for drug-related offenses, robberies, manslaughter, aggravated assault. No-one had ever heard of someone being placed at that prison for such a low severity, nonviolent, white-collar crime as ‘assisted copyright infringement,’ but I guess the MAFIAA get what they pay for,” he says.
Surprisingly enough, Fredrik could cope relatively well without 24/7 access to a keyboard and the Internet.
“I didn’t miss computers and the Internet as much as I would have expected. I mostly just missed having instant access to information like I am used to. Inside I used TEXT-TV and newscasts instead of web-sites,
“You only notice how dependent we are on the Internet when are forced off it and have to do things like it was the early 90s again,” Fredrik adds.
Looking ahead Fredrik is hoping to catch up life where he left off.
“It’s great to be back home with the kids. Family aside I was mostly looking forward to catching up on Doctor Who and Archer. And to put an end to my liver’s well deserved vacation with a large beer!”
Throughout much of its history, the United States has been a violent nation. From the famed lawlessness of the western frontier, to the brawling biker gangs, to the iconic Italian Mafia and the fearsome Mexican drug cartels, the thirst for blood has left a mark on the American psyche – and profoundly influenced many of the country’s most cherished works of literary and cinematic art.
But sooner or later, a line gets drawn. And so, when a tidal wave of violent crime swept the nation in the late 80s, the legislators and the executive branch felt obliged to act. Many wanted to send a message to the criminal underworld by going after it with relentless and uncompromising zeal – kicking off the multi-decade War on Drugs and rolling out policies such as the three strikes law in California or stop-and-frisk in New York City. Others saw the root of all evil in the pervasive gun culture of the United States – successfully outlawing the possession or carry of certain classes of firearms and establishing a nation-wide system of background checks.
And then, in the midst of these policy changes, something very interesting started to unfold: the crime rate plunged like a rock, dropping almost 50% over the course of twenty years. But why? Well, the funny thing is, nobody could really tell. The proponents of tough policing and the War on Drugs tooted their own horns; but less vindictive municipalities that adopted programs of community engagement and proactive policing heralded broadly comparable results. Gun control advocates claimed that getting AR-15s and handguns off the streets made a difference; gun rights activists found little or no crime gap between the gun-friendly and the gun-hostile states. Economists pointed out that people were living better, happier, and longer lives. Epidemiologists called out the elimination of lead – an insidious developmental neurotoxin – from paints and gasoline. Some scholars have gone as far as claiming that easy access to contraception and abortion caused fewer children to be born into multi-generational poverty and to choose the life of crime.
Europe certainly provided an interesting contrast; the old continent, having emerged from two unspeakably devastating and self-inflicted wars, celebrated its newly-found pacifist streak. Its modern-day penal systems reflected the philosophy of reconciliation – abolishing the death penalty and placing greater faith in community relationships, alternative sentencing, and the rehabilitation of criminals. A person who served a sentence was seen as having paid the dues: in Poland and many other European countries, his or hers prospective employers would be barred from inquiring about the criminal record, and the right to privacy would keep the indictments and court records from public view.
It’s hard to say if the European model worked better when it comes to combating villainy; in the UK, crime trends followed the US trajectory; in Sweden, they did the opposite. But the utilitarian aspect of the correctional system aside, the US approach certainly carries a heavy humanitarian toll: the country maintains a truly astronomical prison population, disproportionately comprised of ethnic minorities and the poor; recidivism rates are high and overcrowding in some penitentiary systems borders on the inhumane. The continued incarceration or stigmatization of people sentenced for cannabis-related crimes flies in the face of changing social norms.
Untangling this mess is going to take time; most Americans seriously worry about crime and see it as a growing epidemic, even if their beliefs are not substantiated by government-published stats. Perhaps because of this, they favor tough policing; reports of potential prosecutorial oversight – such as the recent case of a tragic homicide in San Francisco – tend to provoke broader outrage than any comparable claims of overreach. Similarly, police brutality or prison rape are widely acknowledged and even joked about – but are seen as something that only ever happens to the bad folks.
Last week and after a technically complex hearing, a jury at the Appeal Court in Denmark again found Gottfrid Svartholm guilty of hacking IT company CSC. The Pirate Bay founder now has no further opportunity to officially protest his innocence.
Nevertheless, if all goes to plan and considering time served and his good behavior, Gottfrid could be up for parole middle to late August. But in cases involving the now-famous Swede, it will come as no surprise that there are complications.
Gottfrid’s mother, Kristina Svartholm, informs TorrentFreak that the Swedish Prison and Probation service has requested a Nordic warrant for her son. The reason for this is that Swedish authorities sent Gottfrid to Denmark a month before his previous sentence was due to expire in 2013. This means that when he is released from Denmark later this year, he could be sent straight back to prison in Sweden to serve a few more weeks.
But despite the setbacks, Gottfrid remains upbeat.
“What Gottfrid wants to do now, more than anything else, is to get back to his developmental work within IT (graphics etc),” Kristina told TF.
“And, of course, first of all: to sit by a keyboard again after nearly three years away from one.”
With those days potentially just a few months away (even when taking the Swedish situation into account) some might sit back and accept their fate. However, Gottfrid is still intent on shining light on what he believes was a sub-standard investigation in Denmark and a poor decision from the court when it denied his appeal.
According to Kristina, Gottfrid seriously questions the reports presented by the Danish police and is disappointed by their content, quality and lack of professionalism. “Clumsy amateurs” according to the Pirate Bay founder.
In respect of the verdict itself, Gottfrid insists that it contains many “errors, mistakes and misunderstandings”. There is even a suspicion that the judges decided on his guilt before the date of the verdict.
“The final speeches from the defense/the prosecutor respectively were made Monday June 15, 2015. The judges and jury met Tuesday for voting. The verdict was presented Wednesday morning. WHEN was this verdict written?” Gottfrid questions.
While the answer to that question may never be forthcoming, Gottfrid and Kristina remain determined to shine a light on the Danish investigation and what they both believe to be an extremely flawed legal process.
To that end and in conjunction with Gottfrid, Kristina has penned a 2200+ word document detailing what they believe to be the key points behind an unfair investigation, criminal trial, and subsequent appeal.
It covers plenty of topics, from the encrypted container found on Gottfrid’s computer to a chat log that became central to linking him to the case, despite it being highly edited by the authorities.
Also of interest are the details of discussions secretly recorded by the police that potentially place Gottfrid in the clear, but were still ignored by the Appeal Court.
The report can be downloaded here (RTF)
Two years after being arrested in his Cambodian apartment in September 2012, Gottfrid Svartholm went on trial in Denmark.
The Pirate Bay founder and a 21-year-old co-defendant stood accused of hacking computer mainframes operated by US IT giant CSC. It was billed as the largest case of its kind ever seen in the Scandinavian country.
Right from the outset Gottfrid’s position was that his computer, from where the hacking had taken place, had been compromised by outside attackers. Respected security expert Jacob Appelbaum gave evidence for the defense in support of this theory. However, the court was not convinced.
Dismissing the “remote control” defense, Judge Ulla Otken described the hacking of CSC as both “systematic and comprehensive.” Three judges and four of six jurors returned guilty verdicts in 2014 and Gottfrid was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison.
Never one to give up, Gottfrid immediately filed an appeal and this month his case came before the Eastern High Court. According to local media, whose coverage has been much less intense than when the Swede went on trial last year, the evidence presented by both sides was of a highly technical nature.
Writing earlier this week for Version2.dk, Elías Lundström reported that even as an IT journalist he had difficulty in following the evidence, a sentiment shared by Gottfrid’s mother.
“I also have trouble understanding it – how should any of the jurors be able to follow the evidence?” Kristina Svartholm said.
Gottfrid’s lawyer Luise Høj also underlined the difficulty in dealing fairly with such a complex case.
“I think overall that progress continues to be characterized by the fact that we all lack the technical knowledge to deal with this matter, and it characterizes the whole process,” she said.
Whether the complexity of the case affected the jury will be a matter for future debate, but a few moments ago all three judges and all nine jurors upheld the District Court’s decision handed down last October.
Addressing the “remote access” defense, the High Court ruling notes that it would be unlikely that Gottfrid’s computer could be accessed without him noticing it. Furthermore, the Court found it unusual that the Swede refused to assist police in getting to the bottom of the crime.
While the guilty verdict will undoubtedly come as a disappointment to Gottfrid himself, his mother Kristina – who has endured two court cases and numerous trips to Denmark in support of her son – has been openly critical of the entire process.
Breaking news story, updates to follow