STOCKHOLM — Demonstrators waved the Jolly Roger outside a Stockholm court Monday as four men linked to popular file-sharing site The Pirate Bay rejected copyright infringement charges and claims for damages by film and music companies.
All four pleaded innocent as the trial — much awaited by file-sharing enthusiasts and the entertainment industry — got under way amid intense media coverage at the Stockholm District Court.
The defendants are accused of breaking Swedish copyright law by helping Internet users download protected music, movies and computer games for free.
Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, 28, Peter Sunde, 30, Fredrik Neij, 30, and Carl Lundstrom, 48, say they haven't done anything illegal because The Pirate Bay doesn't host copyrighted material. Instead, it directs users to content through so-called torrents.
With an estimated 22 million users, The Pirate Bay is the biggest site of its kind in the world, and comparable to file-sharing sites such as Grokster and Kazaa, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry.
Prosecutor Hakan Roswall claims the defendants broke the law by providing the tools to share copyright protected material.
"They have among other things encouraged other people's copyright infringement," Roswall said in his opening arguments.
The Pirate Bay's supporters have mobilized for the trial. About 20 of them waved black skull-and-crossbones flags outside the court, Swedish media reported. Others were sending a live audio feed from the court proceedings on a special Web site dedicated to the trial.
The quartet is formally charged with accessory and conspiracy to break the copyright law. If convicted, they face up to two years in prison.
They are also facing 120 million kronor ($14.3 million) in claims for compensation and damages from music and movie companies including Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., MGM Pictures Inc., Colombia Pictures Industries Inc., 20th Century Fox Films Co., Sony BMG, Universal and EMI.
The case focuses on dozens of works that the prosecutor claims were downloaded illegally, including music by the Beatles, Robbie Williams and Coldplay and movies such as "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" and season one of the TV show "Prison Break."
Three of the defendants administer the site, while Lundstrom helped finance it.
The case stems from May 31, 2006, when police raided 10 locations in central Sweden, seizing servers and computer equipment and temporarily shutting down the site.
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