After a few week deliberation, Swedish court has found the Pirate Bay guilty of breaking copyright law, and sentenced it’s four co-ordinators to a year in prison and ordered them to pay £2.4m in damages to the entertainment companies suing them.
The Pirate Bay claimed that they only link to illegal file and do not host them, citing similar websites like Google that do a similar job. However, if the four charged are sent to jail time, and stopped from running their current servers, illegal BitTorrent traffic will take an undoubted hit, at least until a similar service is set up. While you can search and find torrent files on countless other sites, including the aforementioned Google, the Pirate Bay’s tracker servers that act as an exchange for the BitTorrent software, are the biggest in the world, and carry the vast majority of traffic across the world.
The result is a big coup for the record, film and games industries, given according to Swedish law, the Pirate Bay maintain they are operating within the law by only linking to files, but undoubtedly had they been found not guilty, file-sharers would have seen this as an OK to pirate material.
Don’t expect this to be the last word, however. Insiders have said they will be surprised if the charge will every spend any time behind bars, with an appeal already in place. And if the website is shut down, it will pop up again within a few days in another form.
If the final result leaves the Pirate Bay found guilty, however, it could have grave consequences for similar search sites and blog aggregators like Hypem.com and Elbo.ws, each which link to illegally hosted music files across multiple blogs, and host websites such as Rapidshare.de.
Whatever the final result though, the entertainment industries, including the TV studios, need to realise this is far from the end of copyright piracy. As long as their own services remain substandard in both productivity and pricing, people will find a way to get hold of material for free.