Friday, February 22, 2013


The documentary The Pirate Bay - Away From Keyboard has recently been released and I had a chance to watch it this week. I have followed much of the developments with respect to the case over a number of years so the issues werent new to me - overall I think it was very accurate and well put together.

The lawsuit against Gottfried Svartholm Warg, Fredrik Neij, Peter Sunde (operators) and Carl Lundstrom (investor) was launched in 2008. At one stage TPB had 22-25 million users. They were charged with assisting copyright infringement for the distribution of 5 movies over a 6 month period with the movie industry seeking $13million in damages. The film concerns the events around this court case in Sweden and draws from a number of sources in explaining the side of TPB operators and the complainants.

Professor Roger Wallis is one person that features briefly in the film suggesting that he only supports copyright where it actually creates an incentive for creativity but that in its present form, it seeks to protect large corporations.

It was also interesting to note some of the tactics used by those bringing the case - they suggested that TPB earned an estimated $1.7million per year from 64 ads on the site, however TPB operators countered this estimate with the suggestion that the annual income was more like $110,000 a year with only 4 advertisements on the site.

In the first instance, TPB operators were each sentenced to 1 year in jail and an award for $4.5 million in damages was made. Just one week after the verdict, the Judge in the case was accussed of bias. It became publicly known that he had direct links to copyright lobby groups and had worked with the industry on copyright issues. The Judge had withheld this information during the trial. However in the end it was held (conveniently) that there had been no conflict of interest.

The District Court verdict was appealed to the Court of Appeal. It was held that their then ISP, Black Internet, must cease providing internet connectivity to the site or risk being fined $75,000 per day. TPB operators then sought assistance from the Pirate Party, a political party in Sweden, who subsequently provided the site with bandwidth (they also did this for wikileaks). The Pirate Party have a political platform of internet freedom and access to culture and as such were inline with the philosophy of TPB and had protection from the law.

Footage in the film also showed Peter Sundae speak about TPB and alternative business models at what appears to be a university based conference. He spoke of FLATTER, a system that would allow users to sign up to an account and place the amount of money they want to spend for the month on film and music in it. With buttons on various pages around the web similar to the facebook LIKE button, each time a user elected to give money to a creator they could click on the button. At the end of the month, the money that the user had chosen to spend in that period on entertainment would then be evenly distributed to those that they had clicked the button for.

Further to this, reference was made to other commentators and members of the public where it was suggested that Governments were not running society properly but rather acting in the interests of large corporations and that the youth of today want to consume movies and entertainment the way that they chose and that it was up to industries to adapt to the consumers, not 'adapt the consumers'.

It was at this point in the film that a failure in communication at TPB was brought to light. It was stated that Gottfried had failed to encrypt his email messages and that this had led to the accumulation of evidence against the operators.

In 2010 the Court of Appeal verdict was handed down Nostrom was sentenced to 4months, Fredrik to 10 months and Sundae to 8 months. Gottfried doesnt not appear to have been part of the appeal. However the amount of damages awarded went up from $4.4 million to $6.6 million. They stated that the verdict heralded the criminalisation of the internet, and that the entertainment industry would continue to try to shut down the internet to preserve their business model.

In February 2012 the Supreme Court rejected a further appeal.

The film closes with (perhaps older) footage of Sundae speaking at the EU Commission about the future of the internet.

This was a great film, certainly accurate according to what I have read about the events and very entertaining. I highly recommend seeing it - it is available for streaming off YouTube and other sites and the creators ask that people freely share it around:

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