Remember the good ol’ days of copyright enforcement? Remember when Napster was shut down with a keen sense of aggression? Remember when Kazaa’s FastTrack network was decimated by a continuous stream of lawsuits? Remember when BearShare was nuked with a $30 million settlement? And most recently, remember when the BitTorrent tracker OinK was smashed by the UK’s copyright traffic cop, the BPI?
Previous file-sharing entities pale in comparison to the size and scope of The Pirate Bay. Sure, Napster with its 1.5 million simultaneous users was impressive, and united a music community in a way that has been difficult to replicate since. FastTrack’s 4.5 million peak users was, at the time, the pinnacle of file-sharing greatness, but a $100 million lawsuit against Sharman Networks and continued financial demands against its population has ensured that Kazaa remains a footnote of P2P history. MetaMachine, the company behind eDonkey2000, maintained a population of approximately 5 million, and was forced to settle for $30 million.
The apparent correlation here is that the larger or more robust the network, the more money the entertainment industry demands. A middling DirectConnect hub with a few thousand users may face a rather small fine or a terminated connection at worst. So when we consider The Pirate Bay’s 10 million+ population, surely the prosecutors of this case want to set an example. The IFPI (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry) most certainly wants The Pirate Bay destroyed, as it has been a source of embarrassment in the global effort against copyright infringement. If The Pirate Bay can be thwarted, a significant and lasting victory against unauthorized file-sharing would be achieved. The root of any organization is money, and if the Swedish prosecutor can undermine their funding, the accused, Carl Lundstrom, Frederik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, and Peter Sunde, might finally acquiesce.
So what grand dollar amount is being levied against the 4 horsemen of The Pirate Bay? 50 million dollars each you say? 100 million dollars? Not quite.
Try $185,000. Each administrator accused of copyright infringement was indicted
today by the Swedish prosecutor’s office, and faces charges on a total of 33 items. The worst each individual has to pay out is $185,000. Not multi-millions, not even one million, but less than two hundred grand each. But that’s the dollar amount each of these 4 individuals faces. Combined, the best the Swedish government can hope to collect is $740,000.
“The operators of The Pirate Bay have always been interested in making money, not music,” IFPI Chairman John Kennedy stated in a press release
. “The Pirate Bay has managed to make Sweden, normally the most law abiding of EU countries, look like a piracy haven with intellectual property laws on a par with Russia.
“We welcome the filing of these charges in Sweden. The evidence presented by the prosecutor shows that The Pirate Bay, which claims to be motivated by idealism, is really motivated by making money.”
There’s some faint talk about prison sentences for the 4 administrators of The Pirate Bay, however no one seems to consider such a notion realistic – not even close. A prison sentence is possible, but then again, running a stop sign carries a similar risk. At best, the Swedish prosecutor can muster the $185,000 fine and permanent confiscation of The Pirate Bay’s old servers that were raided in 2006.
Worse yet for the entertainment industry is that The Pirate Bay’s 10 million+ users have even less to worry about. Even if The Pirate Bay’s administrators were fined and imprisoned for 2 years, contingency mechanisms are in place to ensure the continued existence of “The World’s Largest tracker”. If this is the best that can be done to stop global piracy, all the latest tough talk about forcing ISPs to filter unauthorized content amounts to about as much as The Pirate Bay’s current consequences.
: Peter from The Pirate Bay contacted us to say that the potential monetary demand was actually $180,000 combined - which makes the consequences even more puzzling.