Pirate Bay trial gets massive online coverage

The eyes of the file-sharing community remained on Sweden on Tuesday as the trial of four men from The Pirate Bay search engine continued in Stockholm.

The eyes of the file-sharing community remained on Sweden on Tuesday as the trial of four men from The Pirate Bay continued in Stockholm.

The men are charged with copyright-related violations in connection with The Pirate Bay, a Web site that lets users search for torrents, or small information files that coordinate the download of content via the BitTorrent P-to-P (peer-to-peer) file-sharing protocol.

The Pirate Bay has been in the gunsights of the movie and music industry for years, as it is one of the most popular sites for finding torrents. Although The Pirate Bay does not store the content, it does facilitate locating it.

The music and movie industries have typically settled legal battles against individual file sharers, but ultimately those pursuits have had little impact on the availability of content under copyright on various file-sharing networks such as BitTorrent, eMule and others.

For Sweden The Pirate Bay trial represents the first big test of its copyright infringement laws related to file sharing. It's also been closely watched because of the unapologetic attitudes of the site's creators, who maintain that content should be free and intellectual-property laws should be overhauled.

Those defendants -- Peter Sunde, Fredrik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm Warg and Carl Lundström, are pleading not guilty on all counts. They could face prison time, and Swedish authorities want them to forfeit 1.2 million Swedish kronor (AUD$2.1 million) in advertising revenue generated from the site.

In addition, the Motion Picture Association is seeking 93 million Swedish kronor in damages, and the IFPI (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry) is seeking EUR1.6 million (AUD$3.1 million) in damages.

Supporters of the defendants have mocked the trial, summing it up as a state-funded kangaroo court exercise. They've dubbed the proceedings "Spectrial" and created a Web site documenting the latest developments. Twitter, of course, is also being used to communicate information from the trial.

"#Spectrial is so boring," Sunde twittered on Tuesday morning. "It's sleepy."

But by other accounts, Tuesday's proceedings saw Swedish prosecutor Håkan Roswall introduce evidence related to the seizure of at least 25 servers plus other hardware in five locations in Sweden in May 2006. The trial is expected to go on for at least 13 days.

In Sweden, the trial is top news, and most major newspapers are giving it front-page coverage. In a rare move, Swedish radio is also broadcasting the trial live.

Cameras and video recorders aren't allowed in the court room, and the trial is conducted in Swedish. But Pirate Bay supporters are frequently video-blogging developments in English from inside the court house via Bambuser.com, a Swedish mobile-video streaming service.

Parked outside the court house is the S23K, a modified city bus belonging to Piratbyrån, or a group called the Bureau of Piracy. Pirate Bay supporters took it on a European tour last summer before parking it in near Belgrade for the winter. It's now back in Stockholm near the court house, acting as a press center for The Pirate Bay.

Daniel Goldberg and Linus Larsson of IDG Sweden contributed to this report.

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Jeremy Kirk

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