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Fund will help alleged Swedish pirates hit by new law

Pirate Bay spokesperson and Swedish politicians create fund to help alleged pirates fight accusations after the passage of new antipiracy law. The first case tried gets resistance from ISP.

A sentenced Pirate Bay defendant and two politicians from Sweden's Green party are launching a fund to help people accused of copyright violations under the country's new antipiracy law.

The fund is intended to assist citizens being prosecuted by copyright-holding companies. "When it comes to criminal cases, the accused get a defense attorney for free, but not in civil cases," Maria Ferm, a member of the Green party's youth branch and one of the fund's founders, told Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter.

Ferm is starting the fund along with Lage Rahm, a Green party member and member of the Swedish parliament, and Peter Sunde, the spokesperson for The Pirate Bay, who has said he supports the Green party. Last week, Sunde was one of four men found guilty of having made 33 copyright-protected files accessible for illegal file sharing via the Web site. They were sentenced to a year in jail.

The fund is part of a larger "integrity association" aimed at helping with legal support for alleged pirates accused of infringement by copyright holders. Ferm, Rahm, and Sunde say their ambition is to provide 50,000 to 100,000 kronor ($6,000 to $12,000) in legal aid per case, according to Dagens Nyheter.

Starting a fund to assist people accused of copyright infringement are (from left) Lage Rahm, Peter Sunde of The Pirate Bay, and Maria Ferm. Pontus Alexander/Fabian Landgren

The new Swedish antipiracy law went into effect April 1. The so-called IPRED originated from the European Union's "International Property Rights Enforcement Directive." IPRED stipulates that property rights holders can take their grievances to a court, which will examine the evidence and decide whether the name of a holder of an IP address will be released by the Internet service provider who then can run a civil case.

The Green party, part of Sweden's opposing left alliance bloc, voted against the law, since it members said they thought the law had the potential to be abused.

The integrity association says it thinks there is an imbalance of power when large, multinational record and music companies can sue individuals. The association thinks there is a risk that the accused could be threatened into silence and wouldn't want the case to come to court. The fund should be used only to cover legal costs, not to pay fines to copyright holders, according to the trio.

On the law's first day, five Swedish audio book publishers went after an alleged illegal file sharer in court, in hopes of revealing the identity of the person behind a particular IP address.

Another ISP fights back
But Swedish Internet service provider ePhone refused to give out the ISP user's address. It said the evidence is unclear and it wants to protect the integrity of its subscriber. In a statement (PDF, in Swedish) to the district court Solna outside Stockholm, ePhone, among others, stated that it has not been proven that the audio books have been made available to others, a requirement by the IPRED law.

ePhone questioned how the Swedish Anti-piracy agency, an organization supported by a consortium of film and game organizations that are collaborating to fight Internet piracy, acquired the material without logging on to the FTP server where the files were stored. The files should instead be considered as legal backup copies, according to the law firm Wistrand, which is representing ePhone.

Bahnhof, another Swedish ISP, has rebeled against IPRED based on an earlier law that it says contradict IPRED.

Dagens Nyheter quoted a man working for the district court in Solna as saying that the first IPRED case, which is expected to be a precedent, should be decided by late June.