The three young founders of the “The Pirate Bay” and their financial backer have been caught in the tightening vice of legislation surrounding illegal downloading.
Founded in 2003, the “Napster” of its generation has become a global leading light for downloaders and thus a high-profile target for prosecution. One of the sites founders attacked the corporate attitude in an online press conference: “First they allowed Hollywood to do basically whatever they want with our law system and you know, somehow it has to end, sometimes it has to end, they can’t just go on messing up the system like this.” There were plenty of heavyweights among the plaintiffs including Warner Brothers, Columbia Pictures, Sony and Universal, all companies with global political clout. “The Swedish legal system did not stand up to political pressure from the whole world and so its very hard for them to acquit, but they should have done that, so this is the proof that the legal system does not work when you put too much pressure on it.” Whether or not to crack down on illegal downloads is also a hot topic for the EU. Online content will be worth an estimated 8.3 billion euros to the business community in 2010, thats a 400 percent increase in five years. To tackle the web pirates and pacify the businesses concerned, some governments like those of Germany and France are looking at tough legislation. In France, the Hadopi law, soon to be re-voted, would allow for a sliding scale of punishments up to and including cancellation of the internet connection. But this contradicts the position of the European Parliament, which voted by 90 percent last September to urge member states safeguard rights and civil liberties, such as guaranteeing internet access. France has tried several times to have the text withdrawn, and after several reincarnations it will finally be presented for a second reading in May. The ongoing argument over downloading shows just how complex the situation really is, shifting as it does between illegality and individual rights.