STOCKHOLM | The entertainment industry won round one Friday in a legal battle against the file-sharing hub Pirate Bay, with guilty verdicts and one-year prison sentences handed down to four men accused of running and financing the popular site.
The defendants vowed to appeal, setting the stage for a lengthy copyright dispute between music and movie corporations and an online swap shop they say has deprived them of billions of dollars in lost revenue.
In its landmark ruling, the Stockholm district court convicted Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, Peter Sunde, Fredrik Neij and Carl Lundstrom of helping millions of users illegally download music, movies and computer games.
All four received one-year terms and were ordered to pay damages of $3.6 million to entertainment companies, including Warner Bros, Sony Music Entertainment, EMI and Columbia Pictures.
“We can’t pay and we won’t pay,” Mr. Sunde said in a defiant video clip posted on the Internet. Mockingly, he held up a hand-scribbled “I owe U” note to the camera. “This is as close as you will get to having money from us,” he said.
With an estimated 22 million users, Pirate Bay has become the entertainment industry’s enemy No. 1 after successful court actions against file-swapping sites such as Grokster and Kazaa.
Mr. Lundstrom helped finance the site while the three other defendants administered it.
Defense attorneys had argued the quartet should be acquitted because Pirate Bay doesn’t host any copyright-protected material. Instead, it provides a forum for its users to download content through so-called torrent files. The technology allows users to transfer parts of a large file from several different users, increasing download speeds.
The court found the defendants guilty of helping users commit copyright violations by providing a Web site with “sophisticated search functions, simple download and storage capabilities, and through the tracker linked to the Web site.”
The case focused on dozens of works that the prosecutor said were downloaded illegally. They included songs by the Beatles, Robbie Williams and Coldplay, movies such as “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” and computer games including “World of Warcraft — Invasion.”
John Kennedy, the head of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, called the verdict good news for anyone “who is making a living or a business from creative activity and who needs to know their rights will be protected by law.”
Pirate Bay had assured users the trial wouldn’t affect the site, and it remained operational after the verdict. Authorities temporarily shut it down in May 2006 after seizing servers and computer equipment during raids in several locations in Sweden. But it soon reappeared, running on servers elsewhere.