Swedish court hands down first Internet piracy conviction

The Vastmanland district court ruled that Andreas Bawer, 28, violated Swedish copyright laws by making a Swedish movie available for others to download.The verdict was hailed by the entertainment industry as a first step toward stricter enforcement of copyright laws in Sweden, which has been criticized as a safe haven for online piracy. Up to 10 percent of all Swedes are estimated to freely swap music, movies and games on their computers.

But by saying the crime does not warrant a prison sentence, the court may have encouraged other file sharers to continue the swapping, as Swedish police can only devote limited resources to offenses that merely result in fines.

File-sharing can be traced by tracking the IP addresses of the computers that download or distribute the illegal file. However, Swedish police can only request Internet operators to reveal who owns a specific IP address if they are suspected of a crime that warrants a prison sentence, said Daniel Westman, who teaches information technology law at Stockholm University, the AP reports.

Nevertheless, the verdict is "a very big step forward," said Henrik Ponten, a spokesman for the lobbying group Antipiratbyran, or the anti-piracy agency, which represents the Swedish entertainment industry.

Torbjorn Persson, Bawer's lawyer, said the fine was too big for only uploading one movie.

He said his client has not yet decided whether he will appeal. Westman said it is still possible that a court would deliver a prison sentence against someone who has distributed a large number of illegal files. A.M.

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