The Pirate Bay Fights Back With Appeal Charging Judicial Bias
The music and film industries' legal victory over the notorious file-sharing company, The Pirate Bay, may be short-lived. Defense attorneys for the four convicted proprietors of the popular BitTorrent site have moved for an appeal of the verdict, charging that the judge in the case had a conflict of interest.
The music and entertainment industry didn't even have a week to fully savor its victory against the four proprietors of The Pirate Bay before they filed an appeal.
Though the move was expected, the grounds for the appeal may have caught the plaintiffs by surprise. The Pirate Bay contends that the judge hearing the case should have disqualified himself due to a conflict of interest.
To recap: Last week, Hans Fredrik Neij, Gottfried Svartholm Warg, Peter Sunde and Carl Lundstrom were found guilty of copyright law violation. The legal battle began when the four were indicted in January 2008. The Pirate Bay -- like Grokster and Napster of days gone by -- had become the entertainment industry's White Whale. It was viewed as a rogue site thumbing its nose at authority by facilitating the illegal trading of content.
Based in Sweden, The Pirate Bay connects users to movies, music, TV shows, games, books and software online via BitTorrent file-sharing applications. More than 20 million people worldwide accessed the site last year, making a serious dent in the legitimate copyright holders' royalties, according to the associations representing the entertainment and music industries.
Neij, Warg, Sunde and Lundstrom were each sentenced to one year in jail. They were also fined a total of more than US$3.5 million, to be paid to Warner Bros., EMI, Sony Music Entertainment and Columbia Pictures.
Bias on the Bench?
It has emerged that the judge hearing the case, Tomas Norstrom, is a member of the Swedish Copyright Association. So is attorney Peter Danowsky, who represented the music and film industry in the trial.
Norstrom also sits on the board of the Swedish Association for the Protection of Industrial Property. Attorneys for the defendants plan to ask the Swedish Court of Appeals for a retrial due to possible bias by the judge, according to numerous press reports.
Norstrom has told the media he did not believe his affiliations were grounds for recusal.
Not a Frivolous Claim
The defense attorneys are making a valid argument, Raymond Van Dyke, a partner with Merchant & Gould, told the E-Commerce Times. "Swedish Judge Tomas Norstrom may have done everything correctly and had no objective or subjective bias, [but] the defense attorney's move for a retrial is not frivolous."
The Pirate Bay and many other digital pirates cause the loss of many thousands of American jobs, divert sales of legitimate American products, subvert the income stream to content creators, undermine American music and movie industries, and otherwise are at the forefront of tens or billions of dollars of theft, according to Van Dyke.
"All this being said," he added, "they deserve a fair trial."