The operator of a site that hosted fan-made translated movie subtitles has been prosecuted in Sweden. Undertexter.se was raided by police in the summer of 2013, despite many feeling that the site had done nothing wrong. That is disputed by the prosecutor who says that the crimes committed are worthy of imprisonment.
The boss of a prominent ISP in Sweden has criticized moves by the government which could criminalize hundreds of thousands of Internet users. Bahnhof CEO Jon Karlung says the country is stuck in the past when it calls for harsher punishments for file-sharing and should instead concentrate on developing better legal options.
The Pirate Bay lost all of its active “Hydra” domain names this morning. ThePirateBay.LA, .GD, .MN and .VG were suspended by their registrar, alongside several other TPB related domains. The domain troubles make the site hard to reach through the usual channels, but The Pirate Bay still has some backups in reserve.
The ISP under legal pressure to block The Pirate Bay in Sweden has criticized efforts to make the provider an accomplice in other people’s crimes. In a joint statement two key executives of Telenor / Bredbandsbolaget warn that folding to the wishes of private copyright holder interests could mark the beginning of the end for the open Internet.
The story in Sweden is somewhat famous. Sweden was home to the Pirate Bay and had sky high piracy rates. And then Spotify — a company also born in Sweden — launched at home. And piracy rates fell off a cliff. But only for music. Piracy for other products such as TV and movies remained high. Under pressure from the US, Sweden passed a strict anti-piracy law, IPRED. And, when it went into effect, there was a notable decline in piracy rates… but, within months, those rates rebounded to where they had been before, as people quickly figured out new ways to do what they were doing before. And then Netflix launched in Sweden. And piracy rates for TV and movies dropped.
The Pirate Bay has long been associated with Sweden but soon the popular torrent site will stop using a Swedish domain name.
Earlier today the Stockholm District Court ordered the seizure of both thepiratebay.se and piratebay.se, arguing that they were linked to copyright crimes.
Potential appeals aside the domains in question will be handed over to the Swedish Government, but the ruling is unlikely to hamper Pirate Bay’s availability, quite the contrary.
The TPB team informs TF that they have already begun redirecting the .SE address, rotating it to six new domain names.
As of now, the notorious torrent site is available through new GS, LA, VG, AM, MN and GD domain names.
This means that all the effort that went into the lawsuit, as well as at least $40,000 in legal costs, have done very little to stop the site.
“Congratulations to Prosecutor Fredrik Ingblad. Two years hard work to get us to change two little letters at a cost of $20,000 per letter,” the TPB team tells TF in a comment.
“He could have given us $35,000 and we would have left the domain, thus saving the Swedish tax payer $5,000. All he had to do was ask nicely,” they add.
In keeping with a global strategy to disrupt the operations of unauthorized file-sharing sites by attacking their infrastructure, Swedish authorities have been eying two domains operated by the notorious Pirate Bay.
In 2013, Prosecutor Fredrik Ingblad, the man behind the operation that took the site down in December, filed a motion targeting ThePirateBay.se (the site’s main domain) and PirateBay.se (a lesser used alternative).
Filed against Punkt SE, the organization responsible for Sweden’s top level .SE domain, the case reasoned that since The Pirate Bay is an illegal operation, its domains are tools used by the site to infringe copyright. Noting that Punkt SE supplies and controls the domains and is therefore liable for their (mis)use, the domains should be dealt with in the same way that other criminal tools would be, Ingblad argued.
Punkt SE, on the other hand, took the position that holding a registry responsible for infringement has no basis in law. Furthermore, disabling domains is an ineffective way to deal with infringement.
After two years preparation the case was heard at the end of April 2015 and just a few minutes ago the decision was handed down.
After a week-long delay the Stockholm District Court ruled that The Pirate Bay will forfeit its Sweden-based domains – ThePirateBay.se and PirateBay.se – after finding that they belong to Pirate Bay co-founder Fredrik Neij.
“The District Court’s conclusion is that the domain names are property that can be forfeited,” the ruling reads.
“Fredrik Neij has participated in the [copyright infringement] crimes that have been identified and he is the actual holder of the domain names. It is therefore no obstacle to confiscate domain names from him. The prosecutor’s primary claim with respect to Fredrik Neij should be upheld and domain names should be confiscated from him in accordance with the Copyright Act.”
While copyright holders will be pleased that two of Pirate Bay’s domains will be put out of action (they will be seized by the Swedish state), the District Court dismissed the prosecution’s case against Punkt.se and awarded the registry close to $40,000 (SEK 332,000) in costs.
“We have received the verdict and are of course glad that the court chose to decide according to our view,” .SE public relations manager Elisabeth Nilsson informs TorrentFreak.
“We think it is good that this issue has been examined. Now we need some time to read through the verdict and do a thorough analysis before we can make any further comments.”
At least for now The Pirate Bay will continue business as usual. An insider informs TF that the site has plenty of other domains in reserve and will make a switch when required.
We have also requested comment from prosecutor Fredrik Ingblad and this article will be updated as soon as further details become available.
Should the parties wish to appeal they must do so no later than June 9, 2015.
The US government and European Commission insist that the inclusion of a corporate sovereignty chapter in the TAFTA/TTIP treaty will not in any way diminish the ability of nations to pass laws as they wish. A fascinating case involving an investment in Romania shows why that’s just not true. It concerns a state aid scheme instituted by Romania to attract investments in the country, which offered tax breaks or refunds of customs duties on raw materials. The scheme was supposed to remain in place for 10 years. But as part of Romania’s accession to the EU, it was required to cancel this scheme, which was regarded by the European Commission as providing unfair state aid. So, obediently, Romania abolished the scheme in 2005, some years earlier than it had promised.
That didn’t go down too well with investors. Two of them were able to use the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) clauses of a bilateral treaty between Sweden and Romania to sue the latter. Here’s what happened next, as described in the European Commission’s press release:
An arbitral award of December 2013 found that by revoking an investment incentive scheme in 2005, four years prior to its scheduled expiry in 2009, Romania had infringed a bilateral investment treaty between Romania and Sweden. The arbitral tribunal ordered Romania to compensate the claimants, two investors with Swedish citizenship, for not having benefitted in full from the scheme.
Just part of the price of joining the European Union, you might think. But the European Commission is unhappy that compensation has been paid:
By paying the compensation awarded to the claimants, Romania actually grants them advantages equivalent to those provided for by the abolished aid scheme. The Commission has therefore concluded that this compensation amounts to incompatible state aid and has to be paid back by the beneficiaries.
That is, both the original state aid and the subsequent compensation for not providing that aid for the full term of the agreement are regarded as forbidden under EU law. So the European Commission is ordering Romania somehow to pull back from the Swedish investors the compensation awarded by the ISDS tribunal. Leaving aside the difficulty of doing so, even if Romania manages that, it will then be in breach of the corporate sovereignty tribunal ruling, which could leave it open to further legal action, and further awards against it. On the other hand, if it doesn’t rescind the compensation, it will be fined by the European Commission.
This provides a perfect demonstration of how corporate sovereignty provisions in treaties take away the ability of national governments to act freely. Moreover, in this particular case, whatever Romania chooses to do, its people will suffer financially.